Why Parents Must Advocate For Their Children

Infant Grasping Mother's FingerFor some local school districts, it is time to register for kindergarten. For those who are new to public school, it is imperative to understand how and why parents must advocate for their children now, before the school year starts. The tips below can be used for children of all ages and grades.

All children are different, and by the time they reach kindergarten, parents should have a good grasp on their social, emotional and developmental needs. However, although parents may have a thorough understanding of their child's needs, his/her new teacher will not have this background knowledge. Parents should not assume that conversations took place with former teachers, that all records will be read and/or that the future teacher has the necessary training or experience to accommodate the needs of the child.

If parents have concerns regarding any needs (basic or special), there are ways to begin advocating for the child, before having to interfere.

Here are some tips for starting the school year off on the right foot, and with the right teacher:

  • Set up a meeting as soon as possible with the principal and social worker (if needed) to discuss any special needs of the child.
  • Request a certain type of teacher that will best fit the child's needs (most schools do not take name requests, but will honor a good match request).
  • Be honest about the child's needs (do not exaggerate or hide information).
  • Present the information with any applicable paperwork, doctor recommendations, etc.
  • Be open and responsive to suggestions.
  • Be appreciative but firm.
  • Be extremely detailed regarding the needs of the child.
  • After any meetings or phone calls, follow up with a summary in writing (for example, follow up with an email summarizing the meeting and include only those who were present).
  • Advocate before having to interfere.
  • Maintain ongoing and open communication with the child's teacher.

For many parents, approaching administration may be new or challenging at first, however it is a priceless responsibility that will lead to a better education and a great attitude toward learning. When teachers are challenged with students they cannot help, everyone suffers, and the love of learning can be lost within the first year of elementary school. Parents must remember to advocate for their kids, for if they don't, who will?

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