Recognizing your child may have a disability can be challenging, but learning to advocate for them can be even harder. Many of us have a variety of disabilities. Because disabilities vary from visibility to invisibility to others, this can make it challenging for you to notice if your own child may be struggling. Keeping in mind you too, may have a disability can help you identify how to help your children. Someone who wears glasses or needs assistance in order to walk or move from place to place, has a disability. In some cases, children may have a hard time reading or speaking clearly, this is also a sign of a disability. Noticing these differences can help you begin to advocate for your child.
According to the NCES, in the 2020-2021 school year, about 15% of public school students nationwide were given special accommodations due to disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Your child may be missing out on receiving help in school with a variety of accommodation options due to not having a diagnosis partnered with an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 Plan. It is time to advocate for your child to get them the assistance they deserve.
Knowing what to look for in your child can be confusing because all children develop differently and at their own rate. However, noticing some differences in your child can help you recognize that your child may have a disability. A diagnosis such as Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has three sub-types. With that being said, the hyperactivity and combined type may be easier to spot in a school setting or at home; however, the inattentive type may go unnoticed. An example of a disability that tends to be more easily diagnosed prior to or at birth is Down’s Syndrome. Because of the shared facial features and chromosomal abnormality, this disability tends to be missed less.
Another important factor to keep in mind is the severity of the disability. As mentioned previously, each child is unique. Some disabilities may appear to be extremely similar from person to person; however, that is not always the case. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has a variety of symptoms, ways it presents itself in an individual, and the severity is on a spectrum. Some cases of ASD are more heavily noticed than others. A child who is unable to communicate through words and struggles with comprehension may be more easily diagnosed. Because ASD is on a spectrum, some children go undiagnosed for a long time due to their symptoms not being as noticeable, such as: misunderstanding social cues and sarcasm. These symptoms can vary greatly and it is important to take note of how your child is experiencing their disability. What seems different? Even if you are unsure, it is important to advocate for your child.
Advocating for your child can be an intimidating experience. Educators, pediatricians, and counselors all have different educational backgrounds and may or may not notice the challenges your child is experiencing. It is your job as their guardian to speak on the behaviors, or lack thereof, that you are noticing at home and out in the community. Understanding that there may be push back. It is important that you do not let what they have to say stop you from advocating for your child. Perhaps, consider reaching out for a second opinion if you are at all concerned with what the professional had to say regarding your child. It never hurts to communicate your concerns and look for more help.
One thing that is very important to keep in mind is: just because your child has a disability does not change who they are and how your love impacts them. They may face hardships at school, extracurricular activities, and work in the future; but they need to know that they are strong enough to face these challenges. You are their advocate. You are the person to show them they are more than good enough. They are more than their disability. You are more than your child’s disability. Counseling for your child is a wonderful option, but it is recommended you consider family and/or individual counseling for yourself. Prioritize your mental well-being on this journey, also.
Ultimately, your child is perfect just the way they are. They are just a kid who may need some extra assistance and attention, and that is okay! Your child can and will be successful because they have you to love them and advocate for them. Your child is unique. Your child is loved. Your child is special. Your child is yours, so do your best to show them that they are not alone through advocating for them to the best of your ability.