Back in the classroom

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Discover general strategies that you can use to help make sure that your child has a successful experience in school.

Key points

  • Discuss with your child whether they want their classmates and their parents to know about their disability.
  • Inviting a responsible peer to support your child sets an example for classmates.
  • Balance concerns about your child's success with the fact that they need to have a normal childhood experience of attending school.
  • Monitor your child's progress at school and talk to your child and their teacher if you have concerns.

Whether your child has been identified with a disability or not, uneven development due to their condition could affect their school performance, their behaviour, their friendships, and other activities that revolve around school.

If your child cannot take part in certain activities, talk to the teacher about ways to make them feel included. If they cannot participate in gym class, get them to help the teacher hand out equipment and keep score in games rather than sitting out completely.

Telling your child’s classmates — or not

If your child has some kind of disability that is either obvious or will likely become apparent to others, you may want to consider having an information session to teach your child’s classmates about their condition. During these sessions, classmates can ask any questions and can be encouraged to create a supportive environment.

First, you should ask your child what they want others to know.

If the hospital has a school liaison person, they may be able to speak to the class. You, the principal, or the teacher could also take on this role. Include your child if they want. Back-to-school resource kits, books, and videos are also available to be used in these sessions.

Children take their cues from adults. Being straightforward, answering questions honestly, and reassuring children that they have no need to be scared, can help create a supportive environment. Be careful not to give out more information than your child themselves knows.

Finding peer support for your child

Inviting a responsible peer to support your child also sets an example for classmates. Some ideas that have helped others are:

  • Having a “safe friend”: Find a responsible child a few years older than yours, perhaps a neighbour or another student, to be your child’s buddy. This friend can watch out for your child, lend an ear if your child is having problems, and provide a sense of security.
  • Having a peer tutor: A student in a higher "grade" may take on the role of “tutor”. The exact role could be discussed with the teacher. It might involve meeting once a week to talk about what was new that week, and for your child to say what they enjoyed learning and what they found difficult. With young children, this could consist of having the peer tutor read with the child during individual reading time.
  • Parent and other volunteers may also be able to provide help at little or no cost to the parents.

Telling other parents

It’s your decision whether you want to tell the parents of your child’s classmates about your child’s disability. You might wish to do so to get their support. On the other hand, it can also be important to maintain some privacy around your child’s condition.

You can decide what you want to say and how you say it, such as in a letter, or in parent groups.

What does the beginning of school mean to you?

For some parents, their child’s first days at school lead to many strong emotions. Parents may wonder if their child will do well academically, if the child will integrate socially, and if the disability, if the child has one, will get in the way. It’s natural for your protective instincts to increase, even if you have done everything possible to make sure your child’s return to school goes smoothly.

Try and balance these concerns with the fact that your child needs to have the normal childhood experience of school. They need to spend time with children their age to learn, grow, and develop. Be realistic and don’t undermine your child’s abilities. Work with your child to maximize their full potential.

How can you support your child's academic efforts?

Stay on top of your child's progress at school. Talk to them about what they are excelling at and not excelling at. If there are problems, talk to the teacher. Organize tutoring or other support as necessary if your child is struggling or falling behind in any subjects. Review the academic expectations for your child’s grade posted on Ministry of Education websites. If your child seems to be struggling to meet these expectations start looking for assistance, either through assessment or tutoring whether or not the teacher has identified a problem.

Last updated: October 31st 2009