I cannot tell you how many times parents contact me about the massive amount of problems they are having with their child’s school.
At times, it can be that their child is not receiving the support services that they are legally entitled to. At times, their child is receiving “support services” however the quality of the service and the caliber of the individual administering them is not qualified and therefore is sub-par, at best. At times, the services are provided when the individual “feels like it.” Last but not least, the individuals providing the services are just not “the right fit.” Unfortunately, this happens all too often and only provides a greater level of frustration for the child and the family.
If you have experienced any of these scenarios or are currently going through this situation, what you need to know is that it does not have to be this way and that it needs to stop immediately.
As many of you know, early intervention is the key. However, if you have started the process, perhaps not as early as you would have liked, the investment in time should yield the same positive results.
As I have stated before, in order for a child to thrive and be successful, one specific item needs to be the constant throughout. That is, there must be a collaboration between home and school. If this is non existent, then your uphill battle will become that much more difficult.
As a parent, you know your child best.
Therefore, whatever the school staff and administration tells you, can be weighed against your knowledge of your child and their needs along with the guidance of your child’s neurologist. In a later post, I will address how to find a great pediatric neurologist. No matter what your child’s school tells you, you should never make any decision hastily. Think about it and tell them that you will get back to them within 48 hours - and make sure you do. You always want to present yourself as professional and “do what you say.”
You may not agree with what you are being told by your child’s school. Please know, THAT IS OK.
You do not have to agree on everything or anything that they say. Also know, this is where the pressure and the intimidation will rear it’s ugly head. NEVER feel pressured. Believe it or not, you are in control. Many schools and their personnel feel that they have the right to tell you what you need to do for your child, when they do not. They also feel they have the right to hound you until you give in. DO NOT GIVE IN! They makes themselves bigger than they are and make themselves appear more powerful than they are. Individuals who do this are weak and are using their intimidation tactics to make up for THEIR inadequacies. School personnel also will always back each other up even when some may know what they are saying is not the truth. They seem to believe that there is power in numbers and therefore this would help put pressure on the parent.
Write Everything Down.
Whether you are just starting the journey to have your child classified or have been in this process for a while, one of the the most important things to remember is to put everything in writing. ALL correspondence needs to be sent via email so you have a trail of communication. This applies for the family as well as the school. Make it clear from the beginning, that all correspondence that the school sends you, whether it be the teacher notifying you of the type of day your child had or a particular grade on a test or a behavior issue - DO NOT respond unless it is communicated in writing. By doing this, it shows the school that you are taking the reigns of the situation. This also makes the school accountable for their actions as if they do not comply with your request, it only makes them look bad. Should you have a conversation with any staff member on the phone, YOU MUST follow up that conversation with an email summarizing the conversation. Always, thank them for letting you know about “XYZ” and you will be in touch with them to follow up.
REMEMBER, PUT EVERYTHING IN WRITING!!
Too many times parents have conversations or are in the school for something and there is no accounting for that time. SCHOOL PERSONNEL WILL ALWAYS LIE! THEY WILL ALWAYS DENY THAT THEY SAID WHAT YOU ARE STATING THEY IN FACT SAID OR DID. By putting everything in writing, not only does this give you a timeline of actions but true accountability on both sides - home and school. Remind the individuals that you are only trying to do the best for your child and so should they. For the parents that I have worked with, this has always worked. After being intimidated by school staff, the parent has started emailing everything as well as put forth the process that is expected by them - the intimidation has stopped. When the staff knows that they can be called out on something they have said or done and there is no evidence of them doing such, they again get away with it. Once this expectation is put into place, staff members will think twice in regards to what they do and certainly what they say to the parents.
Your child can be helpful here.
Additionally, please encourage your child to tell you the best they can how their day was. If there were any incidences, verbal or otherwise with staff, any situations where they were made to feel uncomfortable or anything that may be construed as not part of a “normal day.”
Keep a log at home with the date and what your child tells you.
DO NOT TELL THE SCHOOL YOU ARE KEEPING THIS LOG and DO NOT TELL YOUR CHILD THAT YOU ARE KEEPING THIS LOG EITHER.
The last thing you want is for your child inadvertently to say something to anyone at the school, child or staff. This is what I call “tipping your hat.” You NEVER want to do this. If after doing this, you are still having a problem with intimidation, it may be time to hire an advocate. Although staff will continue to lie, a good advocate will keep on top of the situation, request a school visit in order to get a first hand look into the child’s day during different classes. A good advocate knows what to look for and therefore will question situations and interactions seen at the time of the visit. In my 18 years of working as an educational consultant and advocate, I have never had a school who had not responded to my emails or therefore any other requests that I have made. This requires constantly pursuing them.
You ARE in charge.
As a parent, you need to be in charge within yourself as well as with the school. Your demeanor, legitimate requests as well as putting everything in writing should change the dynamics that you have with the school. If it does not, then you will have to give some thought as to what your next step should be. As the saying goes: “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” Remember, YOU are the chef and the school is the sous chef. They take direction from you.