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Here’s a statement that I’ve heard many times before: “I wonder how I’ll feel now that my child is in the same class as THAT child.” Another school year has begun, and as parents and students start to get to know classmates and find out more about them, there always seems to be this fear around “THAT child“. “THAT child” can be so many different kids:

Sometimes it’s a child with an identification: from ADHD to AutismSometimes it’s a child that screams, kicks, bites, or throws furniture. “That child” may hit, punch, or grab. “That child” likely does not use their “words” to solve problems.

It often seems as though “that child” needs and gets the most attention from the teacher.

“That child” may:

  • need a different schedule
  • have a different set of rules
  • always have to be first in line
  • need to sit on a chair instead of at the carpet
  • need to avoid full-class activities altogether
  • be different…and that’s okay. 

For you see, here is something that I have not said enough when people have spoken to me about “that child”: maybe it’s time that we move from focusing on the “negative” to examining the “positive.”

Here are some ways that we can reframe this situation:

This child is helping others to:

  • learn empathy
  • learn to be patient
  • learn that the teacher is not the only person that can help out in a classroom
  • learn respect
  • learn that everyone deserves a friend
  • learn the value of a quiet voice and fewer words
  • learn that every child deserves to be loved, and the different ways that we can show this love
  • learn that there is no such thing as a “bad child,” and often there is another reason for the many different behaviours that we see

This student is someone’s brother, sister, peer, friend, and/or child. Also, this student is doing the very best job that they can. This student — like all students — deserves a positive space in the classroom. At one time or another, any child can be “that child”, and every child needs to know that they have the additional love and support to make it through a challenging time. 

Imagine if we never thought about children as this child or that child, but just child: each of whom needs us in different ways at different times, and teaches us different things along the way.

From now on, I will try to speak up more when I hear concerns about “THAT child”, as I think it’s time that we start removing the labels and focusing on what we can learn from everybody. Maybe it’s that child who will teach us the most about Self-Reg, and imagine how valuable that could be. How do we help change the dialogue around “THAT child”, and see the value in ALL children? As a new school year begins, I want to remain focused on how much we can learn from each child.