Advocating for your child with a disability is really hard. I was contacted this week by a mom whose child with dyslexia is starting a new school this semester. She needed advice about how to reach out to teachers to help them get to know her daughter, which is especially complex in this time of virtual school. I wanted to share the advice I gave her with you. Most likely it will help you in the next school year when you have new teachers, but it is never a bad time to send teachers information about your child with a disability.
As a parent, oftentimes there is so much information you want to pass on to your child’s teachers, but it can feel really hard to figure out a way to do that in a succinct and meaningful way. Sure, teachers get an IEP-at-a-glance before the first day of school, but that doesn’t tell teachers who your daughter is, what she is good at and how her disability affects her in real time the classroom. One excellent tip I learned from our local Exceptional Education Family Advisory Council in Nashville, is how to make your child a disability brochure. Now I do it each year or whenever my child has a new teacher.
The brochure is just a quick way for teachers to get a glimpse about your child and her disability. Here is what to include:
- A Photo. This helps teachers connect a name with a face. This helps teachers connect with your child as a real person and not a complex student who has a lot of needs.
- About Me. Start your brochure with non-disability information about your child. Include a short blurb about her personality and what she loves to do in her free time. This helps teachers see your child as more than her disability and gives them insight about how to connect with her.
- Medical Information. Many children with disabilities have more than one issue they deal with. In the sample below, I use one side of the brochure to provide an overview of Sarah’s medical condition and first aid for that condition. Structure your brochure in a way that fits your child.
- Assistive Technology. If your child relies on some assistive technology, it is great to include that information in the brochure and make sure to include the skills that helps your child with. If the technology is app-based, I like to include the app logo so the teachers can easily find the app on the student’s laptop, tablet or other device.
- A Definition of the Disability. Oftentimes classroom teachers are not familiar with the totality of what each disability involves. I like to include information defining how a child’s disability presents itself in case her teacher is not sure.
- A List of Subjects Affected by the Disability. I like to break down subject by subject how a child’s disability expresses itself. For children with dyslexia, a teacher may not know that her math is impacted. It is important to explicitly tell them. Your child may struggle interacting with peers. Describe that, too. Use this as a place to help teachers really glimpse inside what is hard for your child in each classroom and what has or has not worked in the past.
As you tailor this disability brochure for your child, make sure to keep it short, easy to read and informative. I would not have it be more than 1 page front and back unless your child has multiple complex disabilities. Remember, this is not the only information the teacher will get about your child, but simply a helpful overview.
I hope this helps you advocate for your child. It is such a hard journey – we cannot do it alone. I am so thankful for all the parents and experts I have met along the way that have helped me learn how to advocate more effectively for my child. It is an honor to share what I have learned with you. It certainly takes a village.