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School issues

Your adopted child will face many issues in school. Should you tell the teacher that your child was adopted? If it's a transracial adoption, how much do you share about culture, country and race?

Many of our children come from more diverse cultural and racial backgrounds than their peers. How the issue of adoption is handled in school lessons and by your child's peer group will shape their growing feelings around the fact of their adoption.

No matter how positively you've prepared your child about the realities of her adoption, society's assumptions and myths will impact you and your child in the most unexpected situations. Some of these unfortunate interactions can be prevented if you are proactive and understand where at school your child is most at risk for negative interactions. You need to be aware of your child's yearly school curriculum to help the teacher use positive adoption language and to ensure that assignments or curriculum expectations which cover family life, family history, family tree and genetics are truly inclusive of your child and all children.

Research shows that children adopted domestically and internationally are generally at a higher risk for learning difficulties whether it is because of attention deficits, learning disabilities, fetal alcohol syndrome or emotional/behavioral problems. These problems are due to many reasons (all beyond the adoptive parents' control) which usually happened before the adoption and in many cases were unknown at the time of adoption. The troubles don't stem from being "adopted" -- they would have had these learning difficulties whether they were raised by the biological or the adoptive family.

No-one should discriminate against a child who suffered early deprivation. Neither should they expect such children will learn the same way as other children who haven't experienced challenging beginnings.

A caution on fetal alcohol syndrome ... teachers often cannot detect that children's academic and behavioural deficits are frequently due to alcohol-related disabilities. Teachers unfamiliar with the normal response of students with FAS may easily misinterpret their behaviour -- they wrongly assume the child is misbehaving when in fact the child is unable to translate verbal directions into action, can't link cause and effect or make logical decisions, and can't interpret social cues from peers. Teachers may end up punishing what they see as "willful misconduct", rather than helping.

Adoptive parents must be aware of their child's abilities, both strengths and weaknesses, and be involved enough to know if the school's classroom setting and curriculum are meeting the child's learning needs. You, as parent, are the primary advocate for all these issues.

Adoption and School Issues, How adoption impacts children at school; learning problems; increasing the adoption sensitivity of teachers. Child Welfare Information Gateway, 1993.
Adoption Goes to School, School issues your child will face. Dealing with racism. Biased class assignments. Language development. Learning disabilities. FAS and ADHD. Teacher's Guide. Family Helper.
Adoption in the Schools: A Lot to Learn, Report on educating teachers on how best to meet the needs of adopted children. Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, 2006.
Advocacy ... Parents and Teachers Working Together, Strategies for the effective advocate. Reva Schafer.
Creative Family Trees, Grade school; older kids.
Language-related issues for international adoptees and adoptive families, Second-language acquisition. Boris Gindis, BGCenter.
Need for Special School Services, Survey of 435 children adopted from Eastern Europe. Special educational services needed for children adopted from orphanages. Eastern European Adoption Coalition, 2005.
Overview of Reactive Attachment Disorder for Teachers, Control battles; involve the parents; consequencing. Arthur Becker-Weidman.
Speaking Positively: Using Respectful Adoption Language, Positive adoption language helps destroy the myth that adoption is second-best. Pat Johnston, Perspectives Press.
Special Education Resources on the Internet, Roseann Horner, 2001.
Teacher's Guide to Adoption, Ten modules of basic adoption information for the teacher, and for the parent hoping to educate the teacher. Robin Hilborn, Family Helper, 2005.
To Tell or Not to Tell: What do you say to the school about adoption and your child?, Article from Roots and Wings Adoption Magazine.

Audio tapes

Fay, Jim and Geddes, Betsey, "Success with At-Risk Students." Cline/Fay Institute, 2207 Jackson St., Golden CO 80401-2317, 1-800-338-4065. Also: "Quick and Easy Classroom Interventions", 3 cassettes.

Melina, Lois, "The Adopted Child in the Classroom". Box 9362, Moscow ID 83843, 208-882-1794,


Anderson, Chitwood, Hayden. Navigating the Special Educational Maze.

Brodzinsky, David. Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self.

Fay, Jim and Funk, David. Teaching with Love and Logic: Taking Control of the Classroom. Cline/Fay Institute, 2207 Jackson St., Golden CO 80401-2317, 1-800-338-4065.

Fearnley, Fran. What's Happening in Our Schools? A Special Report on Education in Canada. 1993.

Hilborn, Robin. Adoption Goes to School. Family Helper, 2004. School issues your child will face. Dealing with racism. Biased class assignments. Language development. Learning disabilities. FAS and ADHD. Teacher's Guide.

Kleinfeld, Judith and Wescott, Siobhan, eds. Fantastic Antone Succeeds: Experiences in Educating Children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Univ. of Alaska Press, 1993, ISBN 0-912006-65-X

Leeds, Dorothy. Smart Questions to Ask About Your Children's Education. 1994.

Ng, Nancy Sheehan and Wood, Lansing. Adoption and the Schools. Vol. 1: Educating the Educators: A Resource Manual for Parents, and Vol. 2: Understanding Adoption: A Guide for Educators. FAIR (Families Adopting In Response), Box 51246, Palo Alta CA 94303. 1993.

Nikiforuk, Andrew. If Learning Is So Natural, Why Am I Going to School?. 1994.

Smith, Joy. Lies My Kid's Teacher Told Me. 1994.


 Adoption Resource Central
 General    Considering    Collecting   Private    Public    Intn'l    Medical
 Countries   Agencies   Photolist   Gay   Older   Open   Single   Support
 Special needs   Attach  ADD  FAS    Institutions   Learning   Sensory  Parenting    Talking    School    Transracial   Culture   Search

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Contact: Robin Hilborn,
Box 1353, Southampton, Ont. N0H 2L0 Canada
©2012 Robin Hilborn. All rights reserved
URLs verified, Mar. 22, 2007
Updated, July 5, 2012

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