“As This School Year Begins, Please Teach Your Children to Be Kind” was originally published on The Mighty.
By Laura Smith
A fresh backpack, lunchbox, shoes and school outfit are waiting tomorrow for my child’s first day of school. There is an excitement in the air as we bought school supplies and met her teacher last week. She picked out her name tag like the other kids and picked her seat. She flashed a big smile to her new teacher and chattered endlessly about school starting again and how she was excited to go back and to learn. We went and got a new haircut and she told the stylist how she was starting third grade.
Tomorrow, I will take the traditional first day of school picture, and I will proudly post it on all of my social media accounts. I will probably scroll back and look at it a couple of times and wonder where my baby has gone and how this school-aged girl with long legs is standing on my front porch.
That is where the similarities will end. As many parents cheer and are relieved to get back to a routine, I’m left with only nerves and trepidation. The summers in my house are happy. My daughter is a child who can explore the outdoors and experience life as a carefree and curious kid. She plays with neighbor children until bedtime and explores campgrounds on the weekend. She makes mud pies and collects dirt under her fingernails that need to be clipped and scrubbed frequently.
Unfortunately, school brings other experiences. The child who played carefree until bedtime with neighbors is the same child who is frequently seen sitting with her teacher’s aid (TA) at lunch and playing by herself on the playground. The fingernails that grew long and collected dirt over the summer are replaced with nails that are bit, picked and chewed so much that her shirts frequently come home bloodied or on some really bad days, have to be changed completely.
The girl who chatted endlessly to family and friends is the same girl who is quiet and reserved at school, frequently clamming up when put on the spot or asked a direct question. The child who could explore during the summer and jump from varying activities is the same child who frequently loses focus and can’t concentrate on subjects at school.
My child has invisible learning disabilities.
Many of them.
However, underneath them, she is a kid just like everyone else.
This year as you talk to you children about their new teacher, new classroom, and new adventures, I beg you to talk to your kids about being kind. I beg you to explain to your child that children with disabilities are just like them, but it might take a little longer to understand or get to know them. If nothing else, please just teach your children to be kind. Maybe ask about something they did that was kind alongside your questions of who they played with or what they learned.
Our kids will thank you for it!
A proud mama to a child with hidden disabilities.
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