Explaining limb difference to your school community
Your child’s experience at school can be affected by how their limb difference is understood and talked about with the staff, students and the wider school community.
You may find that your school has low awareness and understanding, as it has never taught a child with limb difference before. This could be a learning experience for you all.
Try to ensure that the school works with you to help other students to understand your child’s limb difference in a way that suits your child. Speaking about it early will help to ensure that your child’s limb difference is demystified and help it to be positively accepted and understood by the wider school community.
Make sure your teacher understands your child’s limb difference
Your teacher will be an important ally in helping the school community to understand and accept your child’s limb difference. The first step is to ensure that your teacher understands your child’s difference. You should discuss with them how and if your child would like to talk about their limb difference, including the terminology you would like used.
Talk about limb difference with other students
Some of your child’s peers may find their limb difference distressing or difficult to understand. There are many ways you could start a conversation about limb difference at school, sports clubs or other community groups.
Share a letter with parents
You may want to send a letter to families in the school community. Your child’s school will need to approve the letter and how it is sent home.
You could include in your letter:
- an introduction to your child
- a photograph of your child
- a description of your child’s limb difference
- any terms or words your child uses to describe their limb difference or prosthesis
- information about your child’s abilities, skills and interests
- responses to common questions, such as
- Why does Andy only have one leg/arm?
- Will I lose my leg/arm too?
- Why is Mary’s leg/arm made of plastic?
- Does Andy’s leg/arm hurt?
- Does Mary need help?
- offer to respond to any questions that parents may have (ask the school how best to do this).
Hold an information session about limb difference at school
You could ask to hold an information session about limb difference at school. It could be delivered by your child, you and/or their teacher. A session should only be held at school with your permission. Consider the age and maturity of the students who will be listening, and anticipate any difficult questions they might ask.
Some discussion points to consider:
- why your child has a limb difference
- dispel any common myths or worries that students may have, such as “Will I catch it?”
- reinforce your child’s abilities and interests
- explain any ways that peers can assist your child
- bring prosthetic limbs, assistive devices and/or books to show to the group.
Start a ‘buddy system’
If a ‘buddy system’ doesn’t already exist in your child’s school, you may want to ask the school to appoint a volunteer ‘peer buddy’ for them. A buddy can promote friendships, assist with physical activities and create a sense of inclusivity and belonging. This may include one or more ‘buddies’ and could involve a student in your child’s class or one in an older year level.
Ask an expert to speak to students
Limbs 4 Life staff can speak to your child’s school and respond to any questions they may have about limb difference. Or you could ask a health professional to speak to students.