Advocating For Your Child

An advocate is someone who speaks for another person. Typically, adults speak for their children and hopefully want the best for their child. But what is the best way to be an advocate for your child?

Parents need to learn what their rights are. Any school can give parents a copy of their rights (usually available from special education personnel). Parents must learn to advocate for their children, not blindly accept what school officials or teachers say or deny what their child can and cannot do. This means they need to stand up and say what they want to happen, the way they want it to happen and what results they expect for their child's behavior and academic progress.

Will parents always get what they want? Maybe, maybe not. Parents and schools often must compromise because of the limitations of time, money and personnel resources. Requests and/or expectations must be reasonable and stated in ways that are accommodating to everyone involved. 

Hostile demands will not get anyone what they want, nor are they likely to be regarded as appropriate. The impact of the requests must be appropriate for the child as well as others in the classroom.

The problems with parents trusting school personnel with their children's education are many and varied:

1. Schools need parental support. When parents aren't actively involved in their children's educational experience, children don't do the work or put forth the effort they need to. Homework doesn't get done, the necessary studying for tests doesn't happen, and grades are average, below average or even failing.

2. Students may be missing some basic skills necessary for the academic instruction. School personnel do not do remedial instruction, so if the child has missed the skill there will be no instruction for him/her to learn the skill. if parents don't teach their children the fundamentals (adequate oral language, social concepts such as sharing or manners, and developing appropriate behavior skills), no one will.

3. Warning signs for struggling children can be easily ignored by school personnel. Children who struggle academically and/or socially experience many problems in middle and high school grades. The media is filled with stories about: bullying, school failure, and actions of revenge.

4. Children may lie to parents to avoid parentally administered consequences of their behavior. If the parent(s) is/are not in contact with the teacher(s) and/or monitoring their child's academic quality and currency, children believe they can say or do whatever they wish to justify their continued bad habits.

5. School personnel may be wrong about what they see, say or do, and the children can be negatively affected.

If an advocate is someone who speaks for the benefit and greater welfare of the child, who is more able to do this than the parent? If the parent won't, who will? Something to think about.

Jennifer Little, Ph.D.

Article Source: Jennifer Little

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