Advocating can be a challenge! It is a fine line between advocating for your child and being the crazed mom who everyone tries to avoid. I’ve been on both sides of the table as a mom and as an EA. I also understand how frustrating it can be as a mom when you feel like your child’s needs aren’t being met or as an EA when you feel like you are doing everything in your power to help your student succeed and yet it just isn’t good enough. I never ever like to assume things or judge a parent for how they are parenting their children. But I do need to mention that if you are going through the grieving process or if several different teachers and professionals have told you that they feel your child should see a paediatrician, please, please, please trust that they know what they are talking about and only want what is best for your child. As an educator, we don’t speak to parents about an issue unless we feel very sure and strongly that it will help the student.
That being said, as a parent, we need to make sure that our child’s needs are being met. When we aren’t in the school day in and day out, we have no idea what is going on and we need to trust that the professionals know what they are doing. Communication is key! Here are some suggestions to help you be in the know:
1. Communicate!! Ask questions! Don’t be afraid to discuss any concerns with the EA, teacher, principal, group home worker etc. Having consistency between home and school will benefit your child greatly.
2. Have a communication book or agenda that goes back and forth. But make sure to read and write in it! If your child is non-verbal, provide the school with a visual schedule that the EA can go over with your child at the end of the day. They can circle or stamp the activities they have done that day.
Better yet, ask the EA if they already have a visual schedule/daily agenda made that they could send home. Many schools have the Boardmaker software that they use in the school already. This also will allow for consistency with the photos between home and school. Click here for more information on Boardmaker.
3. Request a meeting. Before school starts, a month or two after school starts, and again in the spring. And any other time you feel you need to meet in person to discuss issues/concerns that can’t be written in the daily agenda.
Having a meeting before school starts each year allows you to go over any changes the summer may have brought. Strategies that work and strategies that don’t. A lot of growth can happen in just a couple of months. Meeting a month or two into the school year will give you a good idea of how things are going and where they are headed. It is so much easier to deal with situations that arise right from the get go instead of waiting months where the symptoms or behaviour become a habit. Being proactive is much better than being reactive. Make a plan together and follow through with it!
4. Check out this website that has specific issues needing intervention. Lindsay Moir was an incredible advocate who sadly passed away and is greatly missed by his family, friends and special needs community. Scroll down to the bottom and click ‘View ask Lindsay Archive’
5. Bring in an 8×10 photo of your child to your meeting. Tape it to the chair beside you. Any time they start talking numbers (because let’s face it, it usually comes down to money) just point to the picture. Remind them that your child isn’t just a number. It may have been Lindsay who suggested this at one of his workshops I attended. It was pretty powerful. (I would only use this strategy if the school board and I had been trying to see eye to eye for some time).
6. BE KIND. Always be kind and thankful. No one purposefully tries to sabotage your child’s learning. No one purposefully tries to be difficult to work with. We are all doing our best. Working as a team is how your child will succeed.
There is so much more information, but this is a start. It is hard to suggest something to you when each one of you will have a different concern. If you have a specific issue that you need help with, send me an email and I’ll see what I can do.
In the meantime, here are some links to help you know some of your rights!
Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario has a Parent’s Guide to the IPRC & IEP process
IEP (Indivual Education Plan) Resource Guide by the Ontario Government
ABC Ontario has an IEP guide for gifted students
Disability and Human Rights Brochure is located here