Dear Teacher

Dear Teacher:

I don’t want your unsolicited advice on how to handle my kid at home.  No offense intended, but here’s why:

  • She has a plethora of therapists/doctors already working on her care that know a lot more about her diagnosis and treatments, and have decades of training in these fields.
  • I get unsolicited advice from people all the time.  It gets old.

So if I seem frustrated with you, I’m sorry.  But here’s the deal: Most of what you tell me is either going to blow up in my face or has already been tried and failed.  Your experience and training is with neurotypical, undamaged children.  My child is brain damaged, literally, from trauma, abuse, neglect, fetal alcohol, fetal drug abuse, a multitude of things that made my child anything but neurotypical in how her brain works.  I’m not trying to be rude by shutting you down when you start rolling off the advice.  I’m not trying to be a “non-compliant” parent.  But in reality, you do not have anything to offer me.  I, however, have plenty to offer you which is why I’m here.

You may not see the behaviors in my kid that I do.  If I’ve chosen to share the details that I see with my kid, then you should take that as an honor that I’ve entrusted you with the details of my child’s life.  That doesn’t mean I’m looking for advice.  I’m trying to give you insight into how my child thinks and what drives my child when she’s in your care.  I certainly do not expect, intend, or want you to take these details and share them with ANYONE ELSE – EVER.

All kids behave differently in different situations.  That’s reality.  So when say “I NEVER see that here, little Janie is soooooo sweeettt!” the message you are sending is: YOU are doing something wrong, parent, because I don’t see the behavior here, so YOU must be causing the behavior.  In this day and age, that just is contrary, not only how neurotypical kids act in general, but also contrary to psychology of trauma children as well.  Trust me, as the parent, because the only thing I’m doing is trying to make my child successful.  It’s a painful, horrible journey at times, and I need your support.  And you may need mine when my child brings out her true self in your classroom.

If you really want to help my child – not this group of kids this year as a whole, but MY child – then work with me, not against me.  Don’t judge me or waste our precious meeting time with advice on my parenting skills when I’ve already told you all the doctors and specialists already involved her care.   When I say, “Don’t overpraise my kid for things she should/can already do” and your response is, “But all kids need praise! It makes her whole face light up!” I know I’ve already lost this battle.  My kid has won, all she has to do, instead of learning and trying harder under your care, is do something she can easily do, and wait for your praise, and give you a fake facial expression, and she’s off the hook for actually working and learning in school.  You’ve been manipulated and you’re not listening to the one person on this planet who wants this child to succeed more than anything in life.  You’re talking to the person who would die for this child, jump in front of a bus for her, do you really think I don’t want her to be praised when she does well?

I get it, my kid is hard.  She requires thought and not roboting your way through a teacher day, and doing what you’ve always done in the same old way.  You as a teacher have a lot to do in that classroom with all those little minds.  And you’ve got a lot of special needs little minds in there too, each with their own special way of looking at things, and mine’s just another square peg being shoved into a round hole.  I do get that, I think teachers are the greatest and I think they are wonderful.  I had the best teachers and education growing up, even though I was in a teeny tiny rural area.  I wish the same for my children, to get the best education they can.

I’m trying to work with you.  If I’ve shared details of her life outside of the classroom it’s because I trusted you, and I felt it was necessary to help you in helping my child.  You’re not the first one to throw it back in my face, and you won’t be the last.  But my child is not the first child of trauma you’ve encountered, and she won’t be the last.  So I hope the next time you see a frustrated mom snap at you to listen to her rather than blaming her for what’s happening at home, you think of this mom and dad crying themselves to sleep because this young girl is destroying her life at such a young age because of the trauma she endured, the money they’ve spent, cleaned out their bank accounts to find help outside of what’s allowed on their healthcare plan, no vacations for this family, no new cars, it all goes into medical for this child, you think about the fear these parents have if their child continues down the path they are going – because they’ve seen it before, in other children with the same issues – where they see their child on the streets, in a life of crime, being abused or being the abuser, and how it breaks their hearts because they love them so much.  Dear Teacher, think of this mom who took a risk to share details with you in order to help you help her child, and what she goes through every day in trying to help her child.  And maybe, just maybe, next time, you can give a bit of grace if the exhausted mom gets a bit snappy when you keep interrupting her.  And just maybe, instead of cutting off communication and writing the mom off as crazy, think about what this mom is trying to do for her kid.  So many parents of the children in your classroom don’t even show up for anything.  They don’t sign paperwork, help with homework, communicate with you in any way, shape or form.  Their children wake up by themselves, fix their own breakfast, and walk to school, locking the door behind them.  Here’s a parent who is involved and wanting to help their child.  You should respect that.



5 Things Adoptive Parents Want Teachers To Know About Trauma by Mike Berry

Excellent resource – and provides sample letters, a video, etc.  Follow the link to their blog.  You will want to share this with your kids’ teachers, after school providers, etc.

5 Things Adoptive Parents Want Teachers to Know About Trauma

Dear Teacher

Let me start out by saying that I am in awe of teachers, of the profession, and I highly respect them.  There are a few teachers in my kids’ lives that walk on water as far as I’m concerned (Mrs. L, Mrs. C) and others that are incredibly awesome.  So this post is not to “all” teachers.  This is for the teachers, a lot of them new, a lot of them who haven’t raised kids yet and for all of them who haven’t raised trauma or special needs kids.

“Dear Teacher:

I’m a parent of a special needs kid.  The special needs my kid has are invisible.  At the beginning of every school year, I write a letter to the new teacher and let them know the things my kid does (lie about everything, steal) and nobody believes it’s my child because they act so sweet at school.  Hence the warning, so you know to check their backpack when things go missing.  I’m not out to vilify my child.  I’m not a mean parent.  But I know my child has problems, we are addressing those problems, and it’s only fair to let you in on the common behaviors of my child so you are forewarned.

My child is manipulative to the extreme.  You will be charmed into thinking this is the perfect angel child, arms wrapped around you for a hug while your wallet is being stolen behind your back.  We understand our child has that affect on people, that’s survival instinct.  We are trying to teach our child that we are there to provide for them, that we can be trusted to always feed, clothe, house them and make sure all their needs are met, but it takes a long time to teach a child to trust adults after their trust has been broken.early on.

I also try to outline what behavior modification methods work for my child. Every child is different, of course, and it took a long time for us to learn what worked best with my child.  I’m not trying to tell you how to do your job, but trying to help you do your job by short-cutting the learning process – the process of learning what works for my kid.  I know the books tells you this one thing “always” works and experience might tell you that another way works, but my child is not your typical student.  Things that work for other students backfire with my child.  We have learned a way that works, consistently, with our child.  The books cannot tell you about my child, about their past, and their trauma, or why they do the things they do.

I want this to be a partnership.  There are things about my child’s past that I do not feel should be shared – so if we make special requests, like “please don’t hug my child, even if they are constantly requesting hugs” – there is a reason, a very important reason.  You need to trust us as much as we need to trust you to to do what’s right in teaching our children.  Get to know us as parents.  Our only interest is what’s best for our child.  We have no interest in telling you how to teach or how to manage any other child in the classroom – only ours.  We are not arrogant in thinking we know everything.  But we do know our child.  We know our child’s past.  So please don’t brush off our concerns or requests.  You have the goal of getting our child through this school year successfully.  We have the goal of getting our child through life successfully.

Thank you for what you do and all that you are about to take on this school year.  I respect and admire you and your profession.

Sincerely, A parent of a child with invisible special needs”

As I think back to the teachers in my children’s lives who I think walk on water – it struck me: they also have kids with special needs.  Their kids are much older than mine, and each of them fought to get their kids the help they needed to be successful.  Even as teachers, approaching other teachers, they were still viewed as “just parents” when it came to talking about their kids and had to fight and claw for their kids.



It can happen to you, too

Some days we get so caught up in the daily grind of nonsense chatter, firestarting, urine puddles and being called names that we lose focus on the little successes that might be there.  We get lost in the muck of the day to day.  The little tiny baby steps go unnoticed by us because we are in the trenches.  It takes something big for us to notice.

A few years ago I noticed something big in my middle son.

Before we knew we had attachment challenged children, when it was just “my bad parenting” that two of our boys were out of control, we adopted an infant with Down Syndrome.  Our middle son, who at the time was 8, a bully, picked on little kids, especially his little brother, was the type to steal candy from babies and laugh as they cried.  Yep, I had that kid.  We knew it was learned orphanage behavior but after five years of working on it, we hadn’t gotten very far in getting rid of it, except that he got sneakier and stopped doing it in front of adults.  So when we brought baby home, the boys were not allowed near her without very close supervision.  The rest of the time, she was literally “on” me or in an alarmed room.

Middle son fell in love.  He wanted to hold her.  He was gentle.  He wanted to feed her the bottle.  He did an excellent job of holding it just right.  He stroked her head full of long hair (yes at birth she looked like she had hair from one of those troll dolls from the 80s) and spoke gentle words into her ear, whispering, and she’d gaze into his eyes.  He would sit for hours, just holding her carefully, while she slept on his lap.  I was always hovering nearby, waiting for “the moment” when something would happen.  It never happened.  As she grew older, he would willingly play with her.  He taught her to walk.  He would watch Bubble Guppies for hours on end with her if that’s what she wanted to do.  He’d be silly to make her laugh.  He was gentle and kind and loving in a way we’d never seen before.  And Little Miss absolutely adored her big brother, he was her favorite by far, she favored him over Mommy most days.  When he’d come home from school, she’d jump up and down screaming her name for him.  And he’d immediately drop to his knees and hug her.

That year, the year she turned 3, I met with his teacher and learned astonishing news about my middle son.  HE was the one that stood up for the special needs kids in school.  HE was the one that went out of his way to play with them, to understand them, to protect them.  There was a boy in his class with autism and developmental delays that was very rough and physical, and middle son endured it without complaining, questioning, or responding.  He’d simply say, “Gentle, now, be gentle,” just like he did to his baby sister.  And that boy adored him as well.  He was the one that all the little kids knew and adored.  He was their protector, their shield, from mean bigger kids.  He stood up for them on the bus, he stood up for them on the playground.  And he never, ever said a mean word to them.  In 4th grade he had a huge following of kindergarten and first graders, they all knew his name and who he was, they all loved him (much to his embarrassment).  Three years prior I know he would have been the older kid that they would have run from the moment they saw him coming.

He had healed.  A part of him had opened up to love and the ability to give and care, it had healed a part of his heart that had been so closed off for the 5 years prior that we’d known him.  Nothing we’d done had helped, and we tried a lot of things.  But this baby girl, with big brown eyes and crazy hair, had worked her way into his heart and opened it, and caused healing.

A kid I was afraid would be one of those “kids that kill” by age 11 is now the kid that I am proud to say watches out for the little kids in the neighborhood.  Instead of stealing candy from the little kids, he gives his to them.  And we take no credit for that, either.

In that area, he has healed.  I am proud of him.  I am proud to say I’m his mom.  He came out of that dark place and has learned to give and care for littles and those with special needs.  He still has things to work through, but I know he can and will.  I think his baby sister will be his cheerleader through all of it.

If it can happen to me, it can happen to you, too.

Just keep hanging in there.


Dear Teachers….

In your classroom are 20 – 30 – 40 kids that you don’t really know.  You have a really, REALLY tough job of trying to teach these little minds some information they will need for the rest of their lives and you are constricted by a lot of things.  I get that.  I feel for you.  I really do.  Quite frankly, your job is sometimes impossible.  There’s no way for you to get to know 30 kids and know how each one learns and be able to provide, by yourself, everything that kid needs to be successful in learning.  I know this.  I respect and admire you for what you do and what you have to put up with… and tenfold when it comes to my kid.  And now I’m asking for your help by bringing some things to your attention.

I do want to share some things that you are doing that are triggering our kids, and when our kids are triggered, their behavior gets worse and sometimes uncontrollable, which makes your job more difficult.  Family.  These projects – bringing in baby photos, family trees, Mothers Day, Fathers Day, talking about race within families, talking about adoption, these things trigger our kids emotionally, and that triggers their behaviors.  This makes your job much more difficult, and our lives more difficult.  And you probably have no idea why it’s even happening.

Baby photos?  Its quite possible they don’t have any.  And bringing in a photo of them at 5, if that’s the earliest they have, and sticking it up when the other kids have real baby pictures makes the child stand out at a time when these children just want to fit in with everybody else.  It makes the other children ask questions about things that the child may not be ready or willing to share yet.  How about just their favorite picture of themselves?

Family trees – what do you have when you have a bio family, three foster families, are currently living in an adoptive home but the adoption isn’t finalized?  How do you pick what your family tree is then?  Or what if you’re adopted internationally, and have no idea who your bio family is?  How hurtful is that?

Mothers Day and Fathers Day – there are lots of issues here.  Some kids’ mothers, fathers have passed.  You usually don’t know the background on the kid – are they a foster kid? Raised by step-parents, grandparents?  If they were in foster care, did they spend the first 3 years of their life in a bathtub because mom didn’t want to pick them up from the day they were born, nearly starving to death, hips dislocated, unable to move, until they were rescued at age 3, the size of a 4 month old?  Celebrate THAT version of motherhood?  Fathers who beat their mothers, sometimes to death in front of the child, and the kid is now in foster care or has been adopted – you wouldn’t necessarily know the background on this.  But the kid does.

Talking about race.  We need to talk about race and differences in the classroom from day one, yes, absolutely.  But when talking about it within families, make sure not to make generalizations.  Assume at least 1/3 of your classroom has different race siblings for whatever reason, and that it’s no big deal – unless you make it a big deal.  If it’s adoption, and the adopted child is in your classroom, pointing out the differences to that child only makes them feel more alienated, hurts them more, already feeling like an outside within their own family (through no fault of the adoptive family, that’s just a part of the adoption loss).  For younger kids, when you bring books in with kids of mixed race in the same family, etc. so that even in the books it seems normal.  This will not only benefit the kids whose families are “different”, but will help the other kids see that it’s ok, even the books have families like that!

And finally, talking about adoption.  It’s a good thing. (Don’t compare it to adopting a pet, please, because people do return pets for various reasons.)  But please don’t point out the kid that was adopted or ask the kid to do a presentation on “what it feels like to be adopted”.   These are big feelings and need to be shared with a therapist, not a classroom.  And please don’t assume adoption is happy thing.  There is always, ALWAYS loss on the part of the child, and there is always pain.  So talking about it as a fact, it exists, there’s many reasons for it, it doesn’t mean anything bad on the part of the adoptee, etc is fine.  But painting a rainbow picture of it only makes a traumatized kid hurt worse.  (I’m bringing this up because one teacher kept talking about how she gave a baby up for adoption in her classroom, was constantly showing pictures of “her” child, not realizing how much pain she was causing some other children in her class.)

So just for planning sake – assume 1/3 of your class has biracial or multiracial parents/siblings/families, 1 of the children in your class has witnessed the murder of a parent by another parent, 7 of the kids in your class are adopted, 4 are foster kids, 5 are trauma kids, 2 have had a parent either die or abandon them.  (I made up these numbers, these are not statistics.)

Does that mean I’m asking you to stop doing all the projects you like to do with your kids?  No.  But I am asking you to be aware of the triggers, especially with Mothers Day and Fathers Day, and the rest of the projects just be careful of your wording so it’s broad enough to include everybody.  I know it’s hard already and what I’m asking you to do makes it harder.

You’d be surprised at how many kids in your classroom act out because they are trauma kids, and you don’t even know it.  These are some of the triggers that make them act out that can be avoided, if you keep these things in mind.

Thank you for all that you do.  Thank you for all your hard work in teaching the young minds with all the restrictions and tests and things they have you doing, rather than just teaching the children.  I appreciate you so much.

And as far as my kids’ teachers are concerned, because some of them read this blog – YOU ROCK.  And Mrs. L and Mrs. K (retired) – you are ROCKSTARS!