Advocating for your child in school

The pubic school systems in our country are overloaded. Teachers try, but with so many students in one class it can become very difficult to understand and find ways to deal with those in class who are not “average”. Not “average” could mean the child is above average, has a learning problem, an ADHD disability, an Autism disability, a CAPD disability, or any other issue making him not your average, everyday student.

As parents we need to be sure our children are getting the education they need, in the way they need it, in the public school system. It is not an issue of wanting to advocate for our children. It is an issue of vital importance that we do advocate for our children. Not all students and not all teachers are created equal. As parents we have a duty to our children to guide them through these years as best we can and as only we know how.

To be an advocate for your child at school you must first know your child. You must know if he learns in any special way. Some children are readers, some children are writers, some are listeners, some are doers, and some use bits of each type of learning. Knowing the way your child learns is extremely important in the classroom. If he is one who can learn from merely listening he will do fine with a teacher who is only speaking to the class, has no back-up written material, doesn’t use the chalkboard, and is just a lecturer. However, if your child needs to write things down to remember them, or actually see what is being said, he will flounder with this type of teacher.

Therefore, step two is that you must know your child’s teachers’ techniques. It is quite appropriate to meet with a teacher before the school year even begins to discuss teaching methods and what might or might not work for your child. This is especially true of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), CAPD (Central Auditory Processing Disorder), and autism. These children have every right to be included in mainstream classrooms and every right to be taught as they need to be taught in order to be successful. Your above average students have the right not to be bored to tears.

The lines of communication between the school, you, and your child must always be open. There must be mutual respect, common sense, cool heads, and the self-confidence to speak openly and honestly. Things will not always be smooth. There will be times when you and your child’s teacher do not see eye to eye. These are the times to be sure you advocate with sincerity, purpose, and, most of all, with facts to back up your stance. This part of advocacy is most important for parents with children who do have disabilities and are in the mainstream classroom. Know your child’s rights. (Not just what you think they should be, but what they legally are.) If need be, make copies of this information to hand to the teacher or administration.

If you have spoken with your child’s teacher, you have tried working with your child in order for him to learn the way he is taught and yet your child is not progressing, it is time to take further action. If you know where the problem is in teaching your child, have tried discussing these issues with his teacher and are getting nowhere, you must take things to a higher level. Preferably in writing, you should ask for a meeting with the principal or superintendent of your child’s school. Be prepared for this meeting by having notes and information concerning what you have already tried. Also have backup information for the issues in question that you don’t feel are being handled correctly. Do not feel intimidated at this meeting. State your facts. State what you have tried so far in helping your child succeed. State why you feel as you do and be sure that it is understood by all that your child does have rights to be taught the way he needs taught. He has a right to succeed. And his school has the responsibility of aiding him in doing so.

Be prepared to listen also! The principal or superintendent will most likely call a meeting between you as parent, the teachers, and the administration in order to try to work more closely together. Be ready to really hear what everyone involved has to say. There just might be a reason that those other opinions might work. At the very least, you can honestly say that you did listen which makes you a bit more responsible than if you autocratically say, “You are wrong, I am right”.

Working together with the teachers, administration, counselors if needed, and with your student will make his success rate much higher. Be sure to study all the facts closely. Read and become informed about issues that are affecting your child. Get new ideas from any source you can and, working together, your child will succeed.