By Robin Hilborn, Family Helper editor

It's a big step from the home and daycare to the world of school, and for many parents it's a time when they hope their child will have a positive early experience of school.

Our children, who've come to us through adoption, sometimes have special issues when they start to move from the shelter of home into the community at large, especially at school. Their developmental readiness is influenced by their genetic makeup and past environmental influences.

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

Unfortunately no matter how positively you've prepared your child about the realities of her adoption, society makes many assumptions which 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 school curriculum to help the teacher use positive adoption language and to ensure that assignments which cover family life, family history, family tree and genetics truly include 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 attention deficits, learning disabilities, fetal alcohol exposure or emotional/behavioral problems. This is due to various reasons, all beyond the adoptive parent's control, which usually happened before the adoption and in many cases were relatively unknown at the time of adoption.

The children's troubles don't stem from being "adopted" — they would have had these learning difficulties whether they were raised by the biological or the adoptive parents.

So it's important to determine your child's school readiness and performance in Junior and Senior Kindergarten and if there are persistent concerns you should consider an early assessment. Don't let the fear of discovering learning disabilities make you deny your child's need for extra help.

The earlier the intervention, the better the outcome. When you identify and understand your child's learning disability early on, you can help prevent your child from losing self-esteem and from behavioural acting-out.

I hope the selection of articles in this Parent's School Guide will help you, and your child, make a smooth transition from home to school.



The challenge of school for the adoptee
School issues your child will face
Help your child deal with racism
When birds don't flock together
Should you tell the teacher?
You can give an adoption talk
Language development is key

Learning disabilities

What are learning disabilities?
Detect learning disabilities early
Cope with your child's LD
Brodzinsky on learning disabilities
Do adoptees need special ed classes?
Are LDs inherited?

Special needs

Accept your child's special needs
FAS: Friendly school environments
Helping students with FAS
ADHD and the school system
Manage your ADHD child in school
Strategy for the parent advocate
You may reproduce this item with the credit:
"From Family Helper," ________________________________________
First published in Family Helper No. 45, "Adoption Goes To School", ISBN 0-9733470-4-X. Adapted in part from Post-adoption Helper No. 7, "Adoptive Parents' Guide to Your Child in Primary School", edited by Jennifer Smart.