This winter’s been a long one, but spring is on the doorstep. That means both better weather and annual review season are at hand. Mary Ashby, a teacher consultant for CLC Network, is today’s guest blogger. She’s here with eight great ideas about how to be an effective advocate at school for your child with special needs.
8 Ways to Advocate at School for Kids with Special Needs
There’s a fine line for parents between micromanaging your child’s education and trusting the school. As a parent, teacher and teacher consultant, I’ve been on both sides of this line…and in the middle! These positions have given me insight into managing and building cooperative parent-teacher relationships. Allow me to share some thoughts I’ve gathered over the years so you can have a healthy, effective relationship with school staff.
- Be proactive! Take your child to school before the school year starts to meet the teacher, make a connection with them, and share your child’s strengths and struggles as well as strategies that have been successful in the past. If your child is entering a new school, class or grade, walk through the School Welcome Story to help him or her feel comfortable in the new environment.
- Communication. Whether it’s during your initial visit to the school or a parent-teacher conference, share your contact information and the best way to get a hold of you. Ask the teacher how they communicate with parents: Is it through a newsletter, email, handwritten notes, or something else? Find out how they share homework assignments (for instance, Moodle, Renweb, a homework folder, or a weekly newsletter). But keep in mind, your job is not to micromanage!
- Plan ahead. Before entering a meeting with school staff, write down what you would like to learn about or ask and think about how you will say it. Knowing how you want to talk about difficult subjects can help you speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
- Be present. Both you and your spouse should attend the meeting if possible. Don’t bring younger siblings as they can provide a distraction from the main purpose.
- Don’t wait. Contact a teacher right away when you detect an issue so you can tackle it together before it becomes much larger.
- Be open-minded! Your way of “fixing” a problem may not be the only way. Work with your child’s teacher, not against them. You don’t want the teacher to become defensive and dismissive.
- Divide and conquer. At the end of the meeting, review the plan. Make sure you each know who is responsible for what. Offer recommendations that you can follow through with at home.
- Dissatisfied? If you aren’t satisfied with the teacher’s response, address the teacher first (Matthew 5) and then go to the principal.
What Do You Think?
What do you think of Mary Ashby’s suggestions? Have you tried some of them? Do you use other strategies? Leave a comment so all parents are preparing for annual reviews can advocate well, too.
Mary Ashby is a teacher consultant for CLC Network, a faith-based, non-profit that promotes the development of people with a variety of abilities and disabilities to live as active, integrated members of their communities. Learn more by visiting their website or subscribing to their blog.
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