Today's DD children attend regular schools and regular preschools. In the past, children with mobility issues were placed in schools for the disabled, but this is not true today. While a DD child might be placed under the auspices of a school's Special Education Department, often in a category called "orthopedic only" or "orthopedically impaired", they are not special ed students per se, but rather use the Special Ed staff to get any environmental adaptations in place. Acquaint yourself with the schools in your area -- while almost all of today's schools are barrier free, in older areas, this might not be the case. A child can be bused out of his/her home school area to a barrier-free school, and this is preferable to a school with stairs.
School principals have a lot of clout in determining the tone of their individual schools. If necessary, shop for a school and a sympathetic school principal with the help of your school superintendent's office. In this day and age when schools often teach about the differences in all of us, usually DD children are teased less often at school than their peers are -- most parents report that these children end up being almost too popular. Be aware, however, that an occasional school official will use "abuse" as a scare tactic either out of ignorance or to make his/her job easier.
"Luck" has nothing to do with the accommodation your child will receive from his/her school. Schools usually welcome problem-solving suggestions from an LP's parents. Making reasonable, easy-to-accomplish suggestions is the secret to success in this area. Bathroom modifications and, for an older child, having a computer available are VERY reasonable requests because they are cheap and easy to accomplish. Important Note: To insure full cooperation, have all of the child's needs/services spelled out in the IEP (Individualized Education Plan).
A bus, double books, stepstools, and bathroom arrangements are just about all many DD children need as long as the school itself is barrier-free. These children are protected by law and most schools these days are familiar with the law, but not necessarily with the needs of LP children. Be prepared to be your child's champion upon occasion and find out what the proper channels are to get things accomplished -- don't be afraid to go to the top officials. As a parent, you are the pro on determining your child's needs, the school handles implementing your determinations and the educational needs, and the superintendent's office helps pull it all together as the third part of the child's team. Talk to other parents, and if necessary, have your child's school contact other schools where DD children have been dealt with successfully. This makes everybody's job easier because it shows that a precedent has already been set elsewhere.
Parents' experiences have, in general, been positive, but we all seem to have the same complaint -- the main ideas about the child's special needs have to come from the parents. It can get a bit laughable how people seem surprised that a 39" student requires a stepstool to reach a 42" lab table or that traditional "handicapped stall" toilets are NOT useful for an LP child.
Having a double set of books issued to the child allows one set to be kept at home and one set kept in the classroom (or individual classrooms for older children) and avoids heavy carrying going to and from class and school. (Added bonus: no excuse for not doing homework because of a forgotten book!)
Door-to-door bus service is almost the rule today. A bus with a lift can often be provided for those children who cannot handle bus steps. Suggest that the lift be put on the regular neighborhood school bus -- this actually saves the school system money in the long run and your child can be on the bus with his/her friends. If a lift is impossible, an aide (or perhaps an older child) on the bus can help the child up the bus steps. Removable seatbelts, one that goes around both the child and the seat, are available in most school systems and can be requested as part of the initial services for the LP child (via the IEP). If not, make one yourself with belt webbing and D-rings and keep it in your child's backpack. (BONUS: Your child can still sit with a friend on the bus while wearing this seatbelt.)
Because of that all-important catch phrase "reasonable accommodation", a bathroom arrangement (including any self-care gadgets) similar to the one that works best for your child at home can also be set up at school. Often the school's Health Room or the teachers'/ principal's bathroom is a good place to put a self-care setup because the bathroom is private (and usually has a regular doorknob). In a health room, adult help is available whenever necessary.
Keeping a tricycle at school for gym class, recess, and running games is another good idea for elementary school. Some DD children have even gone on class field trips on their tricycles in the early years of school (and preschool). Remind the teacher to consider terrain and accessibility when scheduling field trips and send a walker, mobility scooter, or stroller (for young ones) to school on these special days to give your child more freedom to keep up with his/her peers.
Word processing can make an older DD student's life easier. If your child needs help in writing long assignments in-class and/or for homework, word processing might be the answer. Many schools have tablets or computers in every classroom and the software that runs them. If not, several grocery store chains (Safeway, Giant, etc.) have programs where schools collect grocery receipts and get computers in return. Schools LIKE suggestions such as tablets/computers because it gives them a cheap, easy way to handle that "reasonable accommodation" issue.
Most of the information in this section came from parents of high school and college-age DDs. If this gang made it through school, so will yours!
A must-read for families and professionals working with children covered by IEPs/504 Plans -- Ohio Legal Rights Services (OLRS) publication, "Negotiation Skills for Parents: How To Get the Special Education Your Child with Disabilities Needs." You can find the publication at:
For general LP school issues, also see the article at the link below:
"Parental Matters: LP School Issues," LPA Today, Vol 38, No. 5, pp 12-13, 2002.
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