Challenges and solutions during the early school years
This is a time when your child will go into new and unfamiliar environments, and meet lots of other children. They will also have less adult supervision than before. Some children may ask questions, stare or comment. This isn’t surprising, as this is also a time of great change for their classmates, who are meeting lots of new people too.
Children may compare themselves to their friends and other children, which may make their differences more apparent. This is the time when your child starts to develop a sense of who they are. It’s very important that they learn to appreciate who they are besides someone who has microtia and atresia.
Some or all of the following ideas may help at this time:
Preparing your child. It’s a really good idea to do this before they start school. You should explain to your child that other children might be interested in why they look different, and practice with them some ways of responding to questions and comments. Simple answers like “It’s just my ear. I was born with it” can be all that’s needed to satisfy other children’s curiosity. Your child may get a real confidence boost from practising responses like these with you before they are asked questions.
Preparing the school. Teachers and other staff may never have met a pupil with microtia and atresia before. They can find it very useful to be prepared before your child starts school. Talk to people at your child’s school about the best way to do this. Some parents distribute information or arrange a talk to the class or the school about microtia and atresia. Children can think that the condition is catching or somehow threatening and might avoid your child because of these false but natural fears. Like adults, they may merely be curious or uncertain about what to do. Educating the adults and children at school is often a good way of satisfying curiosity and stopping social difficulties before they happen.
Supporting your child. You need to do this in an ongoing way, because they may need a boost from you at any time. Be ready to be supportive with a chat, a cuddle, a laugh or some good advice when necessary. Coping with the situation is a skill like any other, and just like playing football or doing maths, with good teaching, practice and encouragement, your child can become very good at it. If your child gets attention or comments that they find upsetting, be sympathetic and help them to deal with the situation calmly and sensibly.
Developing your child’s strengths and building self-esteem. Encourage your child’s interests and efforts in whichever activities they seem to enjoy. Give them lots of feedback and praise so that they know that they’re a great person and that there is a lot more to them than just their microtia and atresia.