Tips on Advocating for Your Child at School
Supporting a child with special education or mental health needs can at times be a challenging, emotional and overwhelming journey for any parent or caregiver. There are support groups, advocates and information services available in the local community to help families navigate through the school system. Know that your child has a right to an education.
Here are some tips to assist caregivers in supporting their children within the school system:
- Dialogue daily with your children about the day’s events and note any concerns and successes.
- Keep all school related information in a binder e.g. work samples, reports, letters sent home regarding your child, medical reports, notes from meetings, emails.
- Keep the lines of communication open with the teacher and keep the focus on the student. Be respectful towards the teacher.
- Keep a record in your binder of school personnel that you communicate with as well as their contact information, for example: school staff, trustees, board staff and psychologists.
- Plan for meetings ahead of time and rank your concerns in a priority order so that they can be addressed one at a time.
- Keep records of any emails sent from school staff and, when possible, aim for telephone or in person contact as emails can often be misinterpreted. Always ask for clarification.
- Set positive goals with the desired outcomes and explore options ahead of time.
- Have someone to support you outside and within meetings and network with other families that also require mutual support.
- Know your child’s rights within the Education Act.
- Know that you have the right to disagree and look for common ground with the school.
- When possible follow the chain of command to present concerns in order to maintain positive rapport.
- If your child is involved with Special Education Services, ask that a representative of that department attend any meetings as scheduled.
- Always ask that any school removals/suspensions be formally documented.
- Use your school trustee for support as needed.
Listed below are some links with both information and supports available:
- Waterloo Region Family Network
- Parents for Children’s Mental Health
- Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario
- Special Education Advisory Committee
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela