Introducing A Child With A Disability To New Person

A topic that I get asked about quite a bit is how do we introduce Kinsley to new people who will be looking after her for extended periods of time. This can look like a new teacher at school, a new teacher at church on Sundays, or a new babysitter that's going to be looking after the kids on a date night. I approach each of these situations a little differently, so I'll give my perspective on what I do in our situation with physical disabilities, and how I might handle the situation if I were dealing with Autism or something that was more behavioral based (this is coming from someone with little experience with Autism so I realize that I'm under-qualified to speak to it, but sharing what I might do in those situations and hopefully it might be helpful!) 

The New Teacher at School: 
This is a situation where I would go all in with the information. Teachers spend the most time with your children and deserve as much information as possible so they can know where your child has been, what the expectations are, how to best care for and treat your child, etc... Plus in our situation we have an IEP in place for Kinsley and so knowing all of her complexities helps them write goals that are most appropriate for her. The initial conversation may look like this:

Kinsley is five-years-old and has holoprosencephaly. Her brain didn't divide into two complete hemispheres during pregnancy, and is the reason that she needs her walker to get around, explains the learning delays, and other issues that she has. She is overall a really happy child and loves school. She can communicate all of her needs to you, but needs assistance with getting around and accessing the school. Please let me know what more you need to know from me in order to best help her succeed in the classroom!

This is something that I'll bring up either when meeting the teacher for the first time face-to-face, or an email that I'll send during the summer before school starts to get the teacher prepared for Kinsley ahead of time.

Kinsley does have a sensory processing diagnosis, but for the most part it does not play out in the classroom and so I don't really have to talk too much with the teachers about that. However, if my child's sensory preferences were triggered in school and in the classroom it might look something like this (this example is made up): 

Kinsley does have a sensory processing disorder, she is really triggered by bright lights and loud noises. If she starts having a melt down in the classroom, we've found that these are the best ways to help cope her through what she is feeling in the moment:
And then I would list the ways that we help her cope. 

The New Babysitter:
I like to give babysitters a good amount of information. Mostly because they're usually 16-year-old girls, and typically don't have too much experience with disabled children. I'll give an example of the briefing we would give when Kinsley was an infant, a toddler, and now as a 5-year-old. 

This is Kinsley, she was born with some brain malformations. She can't sit unsupported, so if you want to put her down, please either lay her on her back on a blanket on the floor, place her in her crib, or in her swing. She might get hungry and you can try feeding her a bottle, but she likely won't take it from you, and I did feed her right before you got here. She loves her binky, so if she gets fussy try giving her that. When it's bedtime, put her in her sleep sack and then lay her in her crib. She'll probably cry for 10-15 minutes but then she'll fall asleep. 

This is Kinsley, she was born with some brain malformations but is pretty happy and chill for the most part. She can't sit unsupported, so if you're playing with her just hold her on your lap. She also loves to sit in her wheelchair and roll around, or sit in her Bumbo seat. I just fed her before you got here, she can have water, but please don't try and feed her any solid foods. She chokes really easily and I don't want you to have to try and give her the heimlich. If she seems hungry there are some applesauce pouches in the pantry, and you can see if she wants to eat one of those, or have some milk to drink. 

Again, if I was dealing with more behavior based issues at this point, I would tell the babysitter what triggers the behavior, and how to help them through that so that she's not blindsided when the behavior arises. This could be swinging in a sensory swing, giving a weighted blanket, having the child take some deep breaths, whatever tactics you know of that will set the babysitter up for success, let them know! 

This is Kinsley, she has Cerebral Palsy. She is pretty independent for the most part. She can get up and down from the table when she wants to eat all by herself, and she can sit, and crawl around and play with toys and basically do anything that she wants. She might need a diaper change and there are some upstairs in the closet, or down here in the TV stand. She can eat whatever she wants if she says she's hungry. At bedtime you'll just have to carry her upstairs, or help her crawl up the stairs and help her get dressed into PJs and get her in her bed. She can kind of be a jerk to her brother (just being honest haha) and may scream her brains off if he has a toy that she wants, if that happens just tell her that he's playing with it and that she can have it when he's done. If that doesn't work and she keeps screaming you can put her in a time out in her bedroom and she'll usually calm herself down when she's been removed from a situation. 

The New Teacher at Church:
I tend to give the people at church the least amount of information. They're only going to be with my child for an hour, and really, not much can happen in an hour with Kinsley so I'm really not too concerned about this part of our lives. When we moved over the summer and started attending a new church congregation, this was all I said:

Hi, this is Kinsley. She has Cerebral Palsy, she needs this walker to get around, but can walk on her own with it. She'll need help getting in and out of her seat, and getting into the walker, but otherwise there shouldn't be any other issues. The I peace-out, give a Hunger Games salute, and see them in an hour. 

If I was dealing with more behavior based issues, the conversation might look more like this:

Hi, this is Kinsley, she has (insert diagnosis here). She's a really great kid but struggles with loud noises and adjusting to new environments. She might get agitated, or have a melt down, but we've found the best way to help her is to take her to a quiet room, and for her to have some time by herself. In previous wards they called someone to be a one-on-one teacher specifically to help her out. Do you think that might be a possibility here?  

In Conclusion:
Every child has varying needs and complexities, but for kids with a specific diagnosis, it can be even more challenging. I think evaluating the situations that you're in, and giving whoever is caring for your child as much information that they need is crucial so that everyone can be setup for success. 

I'd love to know how you handle various situations for your child, so please let me know in the comments below! 

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