One of the things that took me a long time to learn is that to be a successful advocate you need to know to advocate effectively. Most importantly you need to know what an advocate IS and what an advocate ISN’T.
What it isn’t – being snarky or rude- threatening to call your lawyer every time you have a conversation with the school – hitting below the belt by belittling or calling into question the teachers motives – saying something like “I know you are but what am I” to the teacher
What it is
- Knowing your rights and responsibilities
- Staying calm even in the midst of turmoil
- Making plan of action at the meeting and holding the school to it
- Documenting everything – this one is SO important. Even when things are relatively quiet and going well you should still document all conversations with the school. You might need it later.
- Putting your concerns in writing to the school and giving them a reasonable date to get back to you about the matter.
- Following the chain of command. First take concerns to the teacher, then to the Learning support teacher then to the Principal. Then if that doesn’t work you can go even higher up. Each school board has a hierarchy. Find it out and make sure you follow it.
- Finding people in the school that have a good relationship with your child and stay in touch with them. They are the ones who will have wonderfully positive things to say about your child.
- Bringing a treat to school meetings – everyone is in a better mood when food of some sort is served. It also goes a long way to ingratiate you to them for thinking of them.
- Taking someone with you to every meeting. It’s important to have a support system and they can take notes for you – freeing you to really listen to what the school has to say.
Unlike the “easy” button above, I know the being an effective advocate is not always easy. But if you remember a little of what it is and what it isn’t it might help. If you have some things to add to my list please let me know.
He darts around the playground, nudging a small child as he whips by. He moves with abandon, no awareness of where he is in space or for that matter, where others are. He flashes a grin at other children and occasionally calls out “come on” but he does not wait for them and they quickly stop interacting with him. He goes up and down the slides with fervor – I am tired just watching him. A small child gets in his way and he pushes by accident and makes her cry in fear. I’m beside him as much as possible redirecting him, making apologies. I glance at the other parents – sitting and drinking coffee while their children play. I’m envious and if I care to admit – I’m lonely being the parent of my son. I try to think of him as spirited but even spirited makes me tired at this moment.
Fast forward several months – after a Psychological assessment and consultation with the Pediatrician we have decided to try our son on a small dose of medication for his Attention Deficit Disorder(ADHD). I am filled with worry and anticipation at the same time. I give it to him with his juice and he swallows it easily. We head to the park with his Respite worker – we have found it takes two of us to keep him safe while out. I haven’t told her about the pill. It’s such a small dose I wonder if I will be able to see any difference. We arrive at the park and he darts for the playground and I feel a small bit of disappointment. He climbs up the slide and then slowly slides back down. He pauses at the bottom and looks around at the other children. He approaches 2 girls who are crouching over a hole in the sand. He asks them what they are doing and I don’t hear the answer – I watch amazed as my son has a conversation with same age peers. He leaves the girls and approaches a boy who is holding a book. My son asks about the book and the two boys head to a picnic table to look at it. They sit there for 17 minutes( I timed it). The Respite worker is stunned. We are both in tears. The medication didn’t make everything disappear but boy did it give our son a fighting chance to make friends and enjoy life.
Medication is a very personal decision and one that only parents can make for their child. Too often I hear people making disparaging remarks about parents who choose to medicate. That is why I wrote this post. To give you a glimpse of what life was like without the medication and to know that if you have chosen medication for your child you are not alone.
Tina is a full time working mom of 2 boys and married to an amazing husband. She blogs infrequently at Spirited Blessings