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To the Parents of My Autistic Students, From Their Disabled Teacher

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I am a first-year special education teacher teaching an autism-specific preschool class. I was born with spina bifida, and I am a wheelchair user. Since the beginning of the school year, I have thought a lot about what I want the parents of my students to know about me, and about their own children.

To the parents of my disabled students:

I know what it feels like to be a child with an IEP.

I know what it feels like to grow up with the uncertain expectations of those around you.

I know what it feels like to have others assume that you can’t do things, especially hard things.

I know what it feels like when people believe success in school and in the world at large is unattainable to you and others like you.

When you look at me, you will probably see the differences between your child and me. You may not see a connection between your child’s challenges and my own.

I want you to know that I feel connected to your child as a member of the disabled community, regardless of how different we may be. I also want you to know that I do not use the term “disabled” in a negative way to describe your child. I use it with intention to describe myself and others who belong to a vibrant group of individuals. I am immensely proud to belong to this group, and I am honored that I get to share this identity with your child.

Throughout your child’s academic career, you will likely hear a lot of people talk about your child’s “special needs.” I want you to know that your child’s needs aren’t “special.” They are not somehow more than anyone else’s. Your child’s needs are unique, but so are everyone else’s.

I want you to know that I see my duty as your child’s teacher as far more than teaching them the academic skills they need to be successful in school. I see the most important part of my job as teaching them how to exist and thrive in the world exactly as they are.

I am here to tell you that your child is not “broken.” They do not need to be “fixed.” They are beautiful just as they are.

I have experienced a connection with children who cannot communicate verbally that is deeper than any words are capable of expressing. This is what I hope to foster in your child.

Most of all, I want you to know I love your child with all my heart.

Their success is my success.

I can’t wait to see who they become.


Your Child’s Disabled Teacher

Getty photo by image source.

Originally published: January 9, 2019
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