Kids are "hard wired" to learn, but everyone learns at their own pace and has their own strengths and weaknesses. As we put away the Halloween costumes and prepare for the holidays, parent/teacher conference season is upon us. It is at these meetings that parents first learn about any struggles their children might be experiencing at school. While this information is critically important and parents must be included in the subsequent decision making to support their children's progress, equally important is to discuss every student's strengths because it is through those strengths that progress can be achieved. As families engage in these important conversations, begin with "People-First" language. Don't allow your child to be minimized by his or her educational weaknesses. This is particularly true for students with disabilities. Referring to students as "Autistic kids" defines those children by their disabilities and completely dismisses their many strengths and gifts. Mandate that your child be defined as a "person" first.
Make sure your children's teachers know their many skills, their interests, their hopes and their dreams. A student who may be delayed in reading may also be a talented artist or a gifted athlete. There are many ways to be intelligent and academics shouldn't be the only measure by which to define a student's abilities. Request that all educators identify your child as a whole person and not merely by his or her deficiencies. Help teachers to see your child as the unique and special individual that you know and from that perspective, more effective planning can begin.