It’s easy to get overwhelmed and caught up in the muck of school. This is your baby after all! Keeping emotions in check to work through tough situations can be super challenging. To work most effectively with your child’s team, use a few simple tricks to advocate for your child at school.
- Keep an open mind
You see one side of your child at home. They are comfortable with you and in their environment. This can lead to different behaviors and work habits.
At school, they could feel less sure or work hard to be on their best behavior. Which means that things you see often, might not ever happen at school. Or the opposite might happen: school is seeing things that don’t happen at home. School can only act on what they are seeing and what the data reflects. If they don’t see it in the school environment, they can’t address it. Additionally, school might have resources or treatment options that you might not have considered. It is really easy to zone in on one therapy or education program. There could be other options out there available through the school that you might not have considered. Keeping an open mind could help you to see things from a different angle or find new solutions.
- Lead with the positive
When you want something, it pays off to soften them up with a little positivity. In meetings, pay compliments to team members. Via email, sandwich your request or concern between two positive statements. Leading with positivity helps everyone remember the silver linings and the benefit of the child. The teachers and therapists will feel warm fuzzies for you and your child. That makes it easier for them to say yes to your request or answer your concern. Your positive statements don’t need to be huge. Pick something that you genuinely like or feel is going well. It could be as simple as thanking someone for their kindness and concern for your child. A fun field trip, an interesting experiment, or even a cool book could be your positive thing.
Setting an uplifting tone early, or often, can help the meeting stay on track and find solutions that work for everyone.
- Know your rights. There are a few rights and laws that can help you. FERPA gives you access to your child’s records and can help you correct errors. IDEA governs IEPs and special education plan implementation. Section 504 control how 504 Plans are created and put into place. Additionally, at every IEP meeting you should be offered a copy of procedural safeguards. Make sure you have at least one copy in your files at all times. This document outlines your rights and options, as well as timelines for special education procedures in your state/district. Certain deadlines vary by state, so making a cheat sheet to help you keep track of everything can be a total lifesaver.
- Ask for help when you need it. Parents have options for assistance. Many districts offer volunteer parent advocates or mentors to help parents find solutions. Every state also offers a parent education center. These centers have lists of local advocates and other resources, like trainings, to assist parents for low or no cost.
For targeted assistance, parents always have the right to hire a private advocate or attorney. Bringing a professional on board can make a huge difference when things get really contentious.
- Always have a plan. Before your meeting, write out your goals, concerns, and questions. Gather all your data and color code it. What really helps is to write out a script and then practice repeatedly. Having a guide of what to say helps you stay on point. Practicing will let you get comfortable with how to speak and the tone of voice to use. Prepping this way helps you to stay in the moment and keep your emotions in check. Remaining logical can help you make your case for an additional service, change in placement, or extra test.
- You’re all on “Team Child” At the end of the day, you and the school want the best for your child. You might just have different ways of handling it. Propose solutions to the teaching team and back them up with data or evidence of effectiveness. Keep an open mind when the school shares their data or ideas, too. How do you advocate for your child at school? Share your best tips in the comments!
Guest Blog Post — MilKids Ed is an education blog and advocacy service providing easy K-12 solutions for busy modern families Meg Flanagan founded MilKids Ed in 2010 as a military family-focused tutoring business. MilKids Ed has since grown into a flourishing education blog. Since 2015, MilKids Ed has been a reputable source of education tips, advice, and support for families around the world.
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