How can I help the teacher of my special needs child?

Our son has cerebral palsy and is mainstreamed into a "regular" classroom. We realize that this creates extra responsibilities for the classroom teacher. How can we best help her? We have asked but it seems most teachers are shy about accepting help. What can we do to encourage her and let her know we appreciate her time?

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Dear Community Member,

Thank you so much for your letter. I enjoy hearing from parents with special circumstances because it teaches me something new every time.

Your desire to assist your child's teacher is appreciated. I think that most teachers have had a situation where they have had an exceptional child in their classrooms whose parents place the entire responsibility of educating their child on the teacher, either out of ignorance or exhaustion. Whether a child has special needs or not, the teachers and parents must work together to help each child reach his full potential. I agree that some teachers are shy about accepting help, though, and aren't quite sure how to ask for it. Perhaps you can start by sitting down with the teacher to discuss your child's current physical condition. Describe your child's limitations and areas in which he needs modifications. Giving the teacher information will make her feel more comfortable and confident in developing appropriate instruction for your child.

If your schedule permits you to do so, spend some time helping out in your child's classroom. Teachers can always use help grading papers, listening to students read aloud, and running centers, among other things. Your presence and willingness to assist the teacher with things less directly related to your individual child will allow the teacher to get to know you better and to, perhaps, feel more at ease with turning to you for help with your child if she needs to. By simply being there, you make yourself a valuable resource for the teacher. She will appreciate the gesture and the additional help, too.

Organizations such as United Cerebral Palsy may be a good source of support for the teacher. They may have resources available that will enhance the teacher's instruction. Any information that you can provide for the teacher about the illness and what she can do to make your child's educational experience more enjoyable and successful will be gratefully accepted, I'm sure. You may also want to suggest to your son's teacher that she contact his previous teachers. They may be able to give her some helpful tips and encouragement.

The most important thing that you can do to encourage the teacher is to let her know that you appreciate her. Write her notes to let her know when your son has had a particularly good day at school. Feedback from you will let her know what you think she is doing that is effective, as well as the things that don't seem to be working as well. Maintain friendly, open communication with the teacher and she will respond.

With parents as loving and supportive as you are, your son is destined for a happy life. The teacher is lucky to have you in her classroom "family."

Best wishes,
Erlyne

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