Advocating for your child at school

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A child with a chronic condition eventually transitions back to school. Learn practical tips when advocating for your child at school.

Key points

  • You may need to meet with your child's teacher and other school staff to make sure they understand your child's condition and where necessary give your child the help and accommodation they need.
  • Advocating for your child may include talking to and getting support from the school board, the special education advisory committee, the ministry of education or even your member of parliament.

Advocating for your child at school means you need to be assertive when your child is entering or transitioning back into school. Sometimes schools go overboard on restrictions because they do not understand the implications of your child's illness. On the other hand, schools can be too lenient and have no expectations when it comes to academic performance.

You may have to go to school to meet with teachers, administrators and other personnel to make sure that your child is performing at their optimal level. You also want to make sure that your child is getting the special help and accommodations that they need.

It is up to you to make sure your child receives the education they need and deserve. Advocacy is the process of seeking what you need to help your child obtain the services to which they are entitled, in order to facilitate a successful school experience. At the local level, this process can involve talking with your child's school, writing letters and meeting with school staff and other people involved with your child's care. At the broader level, advocacy may include soliciting support from the school board, the special education advisory committee, the ministry of education or even your member of parliament.

School and parent partnerships

Children with a chronic condition must sometimes cope with more than the usual challenges associated with school. They may struggle with learning difficulties, behaviour problems, or social and emotional difficulties.

In order to set up a positive classroom environment and work toward making school as rewarding as possible for your child, it is important to promote a partnership between your family and key individuals from the school, school board and health care team. Try to problem-solve issues as they arise. Keep lines of communication open. It is important to develop an ongoing relationship with your child's teacher to monitor your child's academic progress as well as their social relationships with peers.

Before you meet with the school

Even before you meet with your child's teacher and possibly the school administration, there are several things you can do in preparation for your child starting school or returning to school after a diagnosis or specific treatment.

  • Understand your child with a complex condition and its potential impact on learning, behaviour, and emotional and social adjustment. Each child's experience is different. Many different factors can affect your child's learning. By understanding your child's needs, you can advocate for the appropriate type of help from the school system.
  • Seek advice from people with experience. Your child's treatment team, community support services and other parents may all have information to help you. Consider support groups for children with chronic conditions. They can provide ideas that could help guide you through the education system, even if their child's issues are different than yours.
  • Know your child's rights. Every child has a right to an education. Each province or state has different laws about services that must be provided for a child who has special needs. Again, talk to others with experience. They can give you an idea of what you can legally expect in terms of services such as tutors or special education.
  • Be prepared to work to get what your child needs. It can be difficult at times to budge the system in order for it to be responsive to your child's educational needs. This "work" may be as simple as asking the teacher to give your child extra time on a test, or it may involve organizing a formal psycho-educational or neuropsychological assessment for your child. In some provinces or states, this assessment is required before your child is eligible to receive any special educational services.
  • Obtain a letter for the school from your child's doctor or another member of the health care team. Make copies for the school principal, your child's teacher(s) and the school nurse. If your child has had a neuropsychological assessment, copies of this may also be useful to share. Keep your records organized so that you can find them if you need them.
Last updated: June 13th 2012