**Disclaimer: I am not by any means bragging in this post; I am presenting this information so that it may help other parents out there. Thank you!**
After yesterday’s post about Olivia’s rough start to the year, I started thinking about the things I do to help make her life easier and more successful while at school. Things that I, for some reason, decided a long time ago were important in helping her to “fit in” at school. So far, they seem to work. I thought I’d share.
My Mom and I decided when Olivia was first born that she needed to be impeccably and fashionably dressed. My Mom took it as her mission in life and has not disappointed. Honestly, is there anything worse than seeing someone who has special needs, and is young, dressed in old lady clothes with bad glasses and an even worse haircut? Ok, there are worse things, but for some reason that really bugs me. I remember my Mom and I having the conversation right after Olivia’s diagnosis. Basically, I said “She will always wear age-appropriate, fashionable, trendy clothes with a cute haircut. Amen.” and my Mom said “I’m on it sista!” Which is why you can find Olivia wearing outfits such as this:
And carrying an adorable lunch box like this:
It helps. I know it’s a sad commentary on the world, but cute clothes help make a girl more likable. Especially when you’re starting out at a slight disadvantage in the world.
I also go in and talk to Olivia’s class every year. I made a Power Point presentation called “Understanding Olivia” and in it I explain her syndrome in elementary terms so they can understand that it’s not something contagious or worrisome, it’s just something that happened when she was born. Then I explain some of her behaviors and why she does them. For example, Olivia will hit/pinch/bite when she is in extreme distress or extreme excitement. I explain that she isn’t being mean, she just doesn’t have the words to explain her feelings. We then talk about what to do if she does this and how they can help. I then move on to how Olivia is just like them; she has a family, dogs, things she loves, etc. It helps them see that she’s not really all that different. I ask them if they have brothers, dogs, do they like to swim, etc., too to help them see that she’s just a girl who wants to be their friend. I think it really helps the kids, Olivia and the teacher. If anyone out there would like the Power Point, just send me an email and I’d be happy to share. It only takes about 15-20 minutes of class time and makes a world of difference. Sometimes the other teachers will ask for the Power Point to share with their class as it helps them at lunch and recess when they are with the entire grade. My kids’ school is awesome.
Something else I decided was that it would be really important for me to be a constant presence at school. I wanted the kids to know me, to know that I was Olivia’s mom. I wanted them to like me and know me because then they would be more likely to want to come over and play, to come to Olivia’s parties, to be her friend. So I volunteer at school all the time. I’m active in the PTA. I go in for lunch and recess occasionally. We invite kids over to play. When I go to school, I am bombarded with hugs and hellos and smiles and I love it.
One of the most important things I think you can do (even if your child doesn’t have special needs) is to be extremely good to the teachers. I send in notes of thanks and candy treats. I find out their favorite store, restaurant, hooby and I collect money from the class at Christmas and the end of the year for awesome teacher gifts. I’m the room Mom and plan fun parties. I help in any way that I can. It makes a difference. If they know I’m grateful and thankful, they will do more. It’s true. Another thing I do is take major yummy treats to IEP meetings. Those teachers have to give up after school time to be there. I want them to know they’re appreciated. So I take some sort of delicious baked good and either coffee or pop. Just to let them know I appreciate all they do for Olivia.
Let’s face it, Olivia is totally lovable, adorable and worthy of friendship all on her own. But I wasn’t going to take the chance that she might be left out, either socially or academically, because people see her as “different”. These are just some of the things I do to help make sure that didn’t happen. I hope maybe you found an idea or two that you can use!!