5 Ways to Positively and Effectively Advocate for Your Special Needs Child

Starting the school year off right will be critical for your child’s learning success. Here are 5 ways you can advocate for your child:

1. Set up a meeting where you have the teacher’s undivided attention, not at the beginning or end of the school day.  Meeting face-to-face is best!

2. When you get a phone call home about your child, try to keep your emotions at bay (I know this can be very difficult but is also necessary).  You need to focus on asking clarifying questions such as “what happened before the incident?,  was my child escalated?, why was my child escalated?, who else was involved?, did the staff see it happen? and  what did they see?”  You need to play the role of investigator to understand the situation. This includes asking your child the same questions when he/she gets home.  Although remaining natural and objective is the hardest thing to do during emotionally charged situations, it is necessary to help you best advocate for your child with the school.

3. If issues persist or there are new situations that are not being resolved, ask the teacher to set up an In School Team (IST) meeting.  An IST meeting will allow other staff and board members to participate in developing an action plan.

4. Use language that invites the school staff to collaborate with you.  For example: Mrs. Bush, I was wondering if we can set a meeting to discuss how we can collaboratively work together to help Josh improve his outbursts in class.  I would really like to work with you and come up with solutions or an action plan.  I also want to implement consistent strategies at home.

Note: The request for a meeting cannot be denied under the Education Act and the Ontario College of Teachers.

5. When in the meeting, stay calm, watch your body language and ask questions.  It would be helpful to yourself and the school to set an agenda of items that you would like to discuss within the time frame provided by the school.  Try to keep focused on the items and not discuss items that are not directly related to the items or the present situation.  Speak to something that happened last year or four years ago is not solution focused and will only derail the meeting.  Focus on solutions!!!

There maybe times that you are too emotional…do not respond…wait a few hours or the next day.  This will allow you to get in the right mind set to advocate for your child.