If your child has a disability, it doesn’t mean that they are unable to learn or otherwise flourish at their school. However, if you are struggling with properly communicating your child’s needs to your child’s teachers or school administration, it can lead to those needs not being met. In addition, if your child’s school does not meet the needs of your child, it can mean that your child is not getting the best possible education. Below are some tips to keep in mind when you’re advocating for the needs of your child with a disability in their school.
Know your rights
The most important part of advocating for your child with a disability is knowing exactly what their rights are. If you are going to the school to argue that a condition is unfair to your child, having a legal backup to your complaint is sure to garner more attention from the school than the average complaint.
If a school cannot provide the care and attention that your child needs, they are legally required to send your child to a school where their needs will be met. If this is the case, your child may be sent to the school where they will get the best-individualized care they possibly can, which may mean using a private school instead of a public one. Most private schools, 87% of them to be exact, have less than 300 students, which means that your child may receive more individualized attention.
When you speak to your child’s doctors, find out exactly what you should be pushing for when it comes to the treatment of your child. If your doctor tells you that there is a certain activity that your child should not partake in, you can use that medical advice as a backbone to your argument. If your school is breaking any federal, state, or local laws, you can also seek out legal counsel in order to ensure that your child’s rights are not being violated.
Make sure that you also look at state and local laws — there may be extra specifications in your area about what schools are and are not allowed to do. Being knowledgeable about what the laws regarding children with disabilities are can help you substantiate any requests you may have for your child’s school.
Know what you can handle
The fact that you have to actively advocate for your child to get the treatment and education that they deserve is not fair, and it’s not easy. In order to be there for your child as best you can, you have to avoid burning out. If you’re burning the candle at both ends trying to advocate for your child, you will eventually burn out and be unable to properly advocate for your child. This is especially true if you are a single parent raising one of the 22.4 million children who are raised by one parent in the United States.
There are resources specifically catered towards parents of children with disabilities, which means that you can get support from people who know exactly what you’re going through. If you’re struggling, joining a support group can really help you to find other parents who have had similar experiences to you. You can also speak to friends and family for help with figuring out plans for advocating or even just to vent your thoughts in order to get out frustration to help your communications be more clear. You can also seek professional help from a therapist or psychiatrist to get help building the tools that you need to continue advocating for your child without burning out.
Trust your opinion
You know your child better than anyone else, which means that you are the one who is most likely to notice when something is not right. It’s important to investigate anything that doesn’t feel right to you, even if you think you may be overreacting. Overreacting and having to apologize is much better than assuming the best of a situation only to later find out your child is being mistreated. It’s important to trust your gut — if you start to doubt yourself, it can be hard to get others not to doubt you as well..
Develop a connection with your child’s teachers
At the start of the school year, make sure that you properly introduce yourself to your child’s teacher or teachers. This way if something does come up later in the year, you will already have an open line of communication with the teacher. If something does go wrong, make sure that you don’t immediately start pointing fingers — when you play the blame game, no one really wins. Everyone will become defensive and it will not benefit your child for there to be any animosity between you and their educators. Staying calm and working with your child’s teacher can help reach the best possible end result for your child, whatever that may end up being.
Write down your plans
If you are having a meeting with your child’s teachers or administrators, make sure that before the meeting you create a plan of everything you need to say. Advocating for your child can be a very emotionally fraught process, but if you get too caught up in the moment, you could say things that you regret or use a tone that is not helpful to your child’s cause. Write down everything that you are requesting or any problem points you want to discuss. For example, if your child is one of the 11% of children age 4-17 who is diagnosed with ADHD, you could be going into a meeting advocating that you child needs to have some sort of fidget object, writing down your reasoning to help organize your thoughts before the meeting.
If you have a child that has a disability, it can be hard to figure out how to properly advocate for their specific needs. However, by organizing your thoughts and knowing your rights, you can present a much more organized and well thought out presentation for your child’s needs.
How have you advocated for your child with a disability in the past? What has worked for you? What hasn’t worked? Let us know in the comments below.