Advocating for Your Child at School

Parents will always advocate for their children because they will want the very best for their kids.

Considering your children will spend a large amount of time at school, advocating for your child at school is very important, regardless of the types of problems your child is having. Mental health conditions in children are more common than you may think. Therefore, if your child has a condition and he or she is not getting the level of support needed from school personnel, then you will want to advocate for your child. Advocacy in schools allows staff members to grasp exactly what each student’s specific requirements are.

The following information will allow you to understand how to advocate for your child at school. You will also learn some important tips to make sure your meetings with school personnel go well. Naturally, you want to help your child, so you need to approach the situation in the right way.

Identify Your Child’s Condition

If your child is finding it difficult to function at school, then he or she may have a mental health condition. Before you ask for support from the school to cater specifically to your child’s needs, your first step is to identify the mental health condition your child has. Therefore, your initial course of action should be to seek help from a mental health professional. Once your child has been diagnosed, you can then present the information to the school.

Approximately one in five children are affected by mental health problems, so know your child’s situation is not as uncommon as it may first seem. Anxiety and depression are the two most commonly experienced mental health conditions in children of school age. Other conditions can include autism spectrum disorders, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder and eating disorders. There are a variety of mental health issues that could affect your child’s ability to learn at school in a normal manner. If your child is struggling, then ask your school for help.

The First Step to Take With the School

As a parent, you naturally want your child to have the best education and support he or she can get. Therefore, you will obviously want to advocate well for your child. Knowing the position of the school can help you to be more understanding when talking to the teacher and professionals of the school. Seeing things from their point of view puts you in a good position to be able to make your case and work with the school collaboratively. Bear this in mind before you set up a meeting with teachers and school health care professionals.

The first step you should take for younger children who are finding it hard to function at school because of a mental health condition is to see your child’s classroom teacher. For children in middle and high schools, you should first see the health and wellness specialist at the school. Just as there are different types of mental health professionals, there may be different people responsible for your child’s mental help welfare at school, such as a social worker, a guidance counselor or a psychologist. Whether it is a private or public school, most will have someone responsible for dealing with student mental health issues.

Schools are required to offer a level of support to children with mental health conditions by law. However, the level of support can differ from school to school. This is because schools generally find it difficult to stay within their strict budgets and, therefore, they often strain to give the best support your child ideally requires. Giving one-on-one schooling to your child, for instance, could mean two dozen other children are in overcrowded classes.

Helpful Tips

As well as being sympathetic to the position of your school, there are other tips that can help you when advocating for your child. The key to moving forward with the situation is to build a good partnership with the school. The more understanding you are of their position, the more understanding the school will be of your situation. Below are some helpful tips to form an effective relationship.

Call a meeting with the staff and health professionals of the school: This allows you all to discuss the issue together. Talking in person to people is a lot more effective than sending emails or talking over the telephone. Before you attend a meeting, make sure you are prepared. Make a list of questions you have and issues you want to raise, such as if the school offers mental health counseling. The more concise and to the point you can be, the more your time and the school’s time will not be wasted. You can then move forward together much more easily. You should also take your partner or a friend to the meeting to have someone on your side to give you support. Facing several people by yourself can be a daunting situation. Having an accompanying ally will make the situation a lot easier.

Be honest: Be completely upfront and transparent with the school. By being honest and specific about your child’s difficulties, the school is more likely to help. This can include speaking with staff about the mental health medication that needs to be administered during school hours or having guidance that is more direct and specialized. It will be harder for the school to empathize with you and your child’s situation if the school thinks you are withholding information or being vague about the issues.

Provide information: To help the school personnel understand the needs of your child, provide the principal, teachers and other staff with copies of reports and documentation that details the exact nature of your child’s condition.

Keep a level head: You may be feeling angry that your child has not been receiving the support needed from the school. However, it is very unhelpful to approach the situation with negative emotions. By being angry about the situation, it will make the teacher or professional become resistant and defensive. You need to be able to work with the school personnel to achieve results, so do not work against them.

Teachers may not realize how much your child needs help: You should not assume that your child’s teachers are seeing your child in the same light as you. Many children with mental health conditions can keep it together at school every day but completely break down when they get home. The opposite can also be common: children with conditions may appear to be fine when at home but are distracted or disruptive at school. Make sure you ask your child’s teachers how your child behaves at school, so together you are able to build a more accurate picture of your child’s behavior and issues.

Know the law: Familiarize yourself with the local school system’s policies and the state education laws. You will then not waste people’s time by asking questions about your entitlements. The school administrators will also take you more seriously. If you feel the teachers, counselors and other school staff are not accommodating and supporting your child, then you are entitled to request an evaluation. Your child may qualify for special education services. This is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Education Act.

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