Latest Publications

Cool Stuff Your Parents Never Told You About Parenting

print edition

Our Learning Journey As Eco Explorers


Sign up for Newsletter

Subscribe to my free “Making A Difference” Newsletter for updates on current issues regarding Early Childhood Education.

EoT006 : “I think your child has special needs”: Breaking the News to Parents in a Way which Enhances Collaboration.

The topic for today is “I think your child has special needs”: breaking the news to parents in a way which enhances collaboration. By the end of this session, I hope that you will have a different perspective about children or people with special needs or learning difficulties so that you will be able to approach parents more confidently.


I’ve frequently been approached with this question by kindergarten teachers, day care providers, nannies and doctors: ‘How do you tell a parent that their child had special needs or learning difficulties?’


This dreaded question is something that many fear to address, as there is always a high likelihood that parents may go into denial, become defensive or get upset about it. Many teachers I know have tried breaking the news in different ways (by being empathetic, understanding, compassionate) so that they can ‘soften the blow’ as much as possible. There are also some teachers I know of who try to avoid bringing up the topic all together.


As early childhood educators, we are naturally the first line of defense for early detection and intervention and after being an ECE teacher for the past 15 years and trying different ways of doing it, the moment of ‘enlightenment’ came when my own son was diagnosed as being dyslexic or in other words, having speech, reading and writing difficulties.


This was the time when I was at the receiving end of the news, when his teachers would call me in for a ‘private’ meeting, try their very best to hide their discomfort in handling such a ‘difficult case’ and try to be as understanding as possible when they break the news to me, like my son had some disease which needed to be ‘fixed’ as early as possible. I have since come to terms with it but many people who work with him (eg. his teachers) haven’t.


Over and over again, I was bombarded with the same message: that there is something wrong with my son, that he needs help, that no ‘normal’ person can give him that help and that he is less than a ‘normal’ person. It came to a point that I almost believed that he was less than others…until I discovered (quite accidentally) that I too, had learning difficulties…and I still do! Both my son and I am dyslexic but we struggle in different areas when it comes to reading and writing and speaking.


During one of his assessments with the educational psychologist, she used a computer program to assess my son’s reading, comprehension and composition skills. I observed his tasks and was a little shocked to find that some of those assessments were actually quite tricky….even for me!


What was even more interesting was when he came across a tricky question, I observed him doing the exact thing as I. We look for alternative ways to problem solve, we tend to look for skills that we are good with to make up for the shortfall in our language skills.


My suspicions were verified and it became clear to me that we are both dyslexic and both of us struggle with different types of language skills. While both of us have difficulty with reading and writing (which are fairly discreet difficulties), my son also struggles with spoken language (which is more obvious to those around him).


This has changed my perspective completely. I look around me and am constantly finding more and more people with ‘special needs’ and ‘learning difficulties’ in high places: Albert Einstein, Jamie Oliver, Lee Kuan Yew (just to name a few) are super genius people who can do what few ‘normal’ people can do. I even know a lady who has ‘learning difficulties’ who has graduated with a bachelors and masters in early childhood education, who is a published author, a writer, a veteran early childhood educator, a teacher trainer, a blogger, podcaster, a parenting coach and a happy mom of two boys. Yes! That would be yours truly!


With this change of world view, I have developed a different approach to dealing with parents who have children showing signs of special needs or learning difficulties and I hope that by sharing this with you, it will change your perspective as well.


When approaching parents to have their child assessed by an educational psychologist, remember that;


1) The child is in no way ‘less’ or ‘under privileged’ or ‘unfortunate’ nor is there anything ‘wrong’ with him/her, which needs ‘fixing’. We are all unique and created differently.

2) There is no need to feel ‘sorry’ for the child or the parents. If indeed this child has special needs or learning difficulties, there is a chance that he could one day be someone that not many ‘normal’ people can be (and that may include you as well!).

3) If the child cannot thrive in a certain environment, it’s not that he has failed, but rather, the system has failed him.


Here’s exactly what I would say….

“I have a feeling that your child may be ‘gifted’. I can’t confirm it so you’ll have to get an educational psychologist to give him an in-depth assessment. But if he is ‘special’, it will help us to tailor our teaching approach to meet his learning needs so that we can help him nurture his abilities from as early as possible.”


I am dyslexic (and so is Jamie Oliver). I have been blessed with being able to contribute to the early childhood education industry in ways that not many people can and I can’t wait to see what greatness lies for others out there like us.


Here’s a link to read up more about people with special needs and learning difficulties who have made it big and I mean BIG!

Hit Like or Share and comment below