Have you ever wondered what it is like to be a preschool educator who is not formally (or professionally) trained in special education? I have had encounters with children who had learning difficulties, learning disabilities, developmental delays, autism…you name it. I am not trained and I still handle them.
Because they need the social integration with other (so-called) normal kids and learn appropriate behaviours, hence a number of them are being placed in mainstream schools. Sometimes, it is easy to blame the parents for being ignorant of their own kid. “Why send your special needs kid in a normal kindergarten? This is not a place for them! They need to go the special school!”
It is very easy to say all that. I, honestly, was one of them who said this. But after having my own kid, who has Global Developmental Delay and Speech Delay, I began to understand special needs parents better because I had to put on their shoes. I began to understand why they placed their child in schools where you would normally see normal children studied in. Trust me when I say that there are parents, who have tried and giving support, who still find that being mainstream kindergarten can help their children integrate and develop social skills. While these are also genuine parents who have already engaged neurologist, doctors, therapists and KNOW their children’s development issues, there are also parents who can’t be bothered, ignorant and in denial. The latter, being the most common problem.
And when this happens, it puts the preschool teachers in a spot. They are being sandwiched; half of them wanting to help and inform the parents of the issues they have observed in class, and the other half having to battle with parents who simply do not want to understand and cooperate. I have met some parents who are like this and I tried to contain myself from bursting out. Sometimes, I would also say (in my heart) that it was their loss if they chose to do nothing about it.
But there is really nothing much we preschool teachers can do if the parents do not want to accept anything we tell them. If they keep saying that there is nothing wrong with their children and ignoring the signs, we cannot force them.
However, as professionals, I cannot stress it out enough that we are the voice for these children; special needs or not. If the child (diagnosed and undiagnosed) needs our help, we ought to be there. We have to give our full support for these children who are in need. I know teachers would say that they were not trained in this special field but then you are definitely trained to be a preschool educator, where you are taught that every child has the right to learn.
I can never take that as a valid answer. It is simply an excuse! There are a lot of books, articles online, websites, pages, blogs and lots more containing facts, techniques and support that we can provide for the children with special needs. And especially if the child is already diagnosed and parents are doing everything they can do to support the child, I think it is only right that we should be helping out with what we can within the four walls of the school. But I also know of some teachers who go the extra mile through sharing of articles with parents to read and to learn to cope, finding out community services that parents can go to or just simply listening to the parents and help them to look out for their kid.
As a special needs parent myself, seeing any of these kids being ignored in classrooms just breaks my heart. I feel as though it was my child who gets ignored by the teacher. With the number of children with special needs keeps increasing, the more we need to educate ourselves, before we can even think of speaking to the parents and tell them to go somewhere better. We should be the better place for the parents and their children.
We are the Voice for these children and their parents. They need to be heard and supported.