Advocating for Your Child

Advocating for Your Child

If you notice your child may have some learning obstacles in school, but you are not sure where to begin or what will be best the support you can give your child, there are numerous options. Here are some tips and tricks to help you sort through this process.

Ask Questions

If your child is old enough to answer questions, you may want to begin by asking any of the following:

“What do you like/not like about school,” or “Tell me one thing you look forward to everyday when you go to school?”

You will be surprised how much your child will begin to open up and start telling you that you were not aware of based on closed ended questions. Studies have shown that children have higher self-esteem and do better in school when they have constructive, quality conversations with their parents.

Where to Begin

Once you have gathered some information and have a concern, you want to make a meeting with your child’s teacher. If your child is in an early childhood setting, you should set up an appointment and speak to the teacher about your concerns. If your child is in higher grades, you will need to set a time and date to meet with the teachers and other personnel.  You want to know ahead of time who will you be meeting with, the Directors and Principals or Guidance Counselors, and what, if anything, you need to bring with you.

You want to have any and all information that you feel is important to the meeting: information that has been brought home, doctors information, or any other meeting notes.

Determine Your Child’s Needs

During this meeting, you want to determine what your child needs will be to help them succeed. Go into the meeting prepared, decide what your goals will be, and prioritize them for your child.  Make sure you take notes! Depending on what your child’s age and needs, you will want to know if services can come into the facility to help your child. Whether this is for speech, reading, gross or fine motor skills, behavior, ADHD, etc., determine prior to the end of the meeting what this will look like and how it will take place.  If your child is in higher grades (not ECE) and you suspect they need special education services, you will have to request for them to be evaluated, in writing, to determine what service will be needed.

Only the Best

You want the best for your child and the best services available to them.  Talk to your child’s pediatrician and have them write a letter if your child needs an IEP (individual education plan) or a 504 (which is a plan that ensures their academic success).  If your child is in early education, talk to the Director to help you with EI (early intervention) or with the public school to help you get the process started. Don’t sit back; you are your child’s advocate to help them to get the best education as possible.  Staying on top of everything and having the documentation and follow up meetings in place will help with this process.

Talk with Other Parents

Look for support groups within your community. See if at the childcare your child attends, there are any other parents you can speak with? Do they have support groups or parent committees? What types of resources can they provide for you?

Meet with School and Evaluators.

Meet with the school on a regular basis. Talk about your child’s progress and what you can do to assist in the process. Make it a point to meet with the evaluators to discuss the results and what the next steps will be.

Taking Small Steps

Determine what your child’s needs are and talk to different people in the field if you are not sure. Prioritize goals for your child and what you want for your child. This does not have to be done in one day, but by being actively involved in the process and staying on top of it, you will be advocating and helping your child to succeed. They have different funding streams to help you, such as a Medicaid waiver program – does your child qualify for this? If not, then why? What other funding source is your child eligible for?  Here at The Children’s Workshop, you can speak with directors, teachers, our education department, and even our nurses to point you in the right direction. The key is to stay involved and work with the schools and specialists to help give your child the best support and education available. Your child deserves the best!

Resources:  Fassler, Davison Institute for Talent Development, Parent Magazine.
This article was written by Tracy Martin-Turgeon, VP and Regional Director at The Children’s Workshop in Cumberland, RI.

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