In this age of endless budget cuts and inadequately funded schools, your role in your child’s education is more important than ever. Don’t sit back and let someone else be responsible for providing your child with the tools they need to learn. You can and should take an active role in your child’s education.
If there is demonstrated educational need, the school is required by law to develop an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that delivers some educational benefit, but not necessarily one that maximizes student achievement. Parents who want the best for their kids may find this standard frustrating. Understanding special education laws and your school’s guidelines for services will help you get the best support for your child at school. Your child may be eligible for many kinds of accommodations and support services, but the school might not provide services unless you ask for them.
Being a vocal advocate for your child can be challenging. You’ll need superior communication and negotiation skills, and the confidence to defend your child’s right to a proper education.
Clarify your goals. Before meetings, write down what you want to accomplish. Decide what is most important, and what you are willing to negotiate.
Be a good listener. Allow school officials to explain their opinions. If you don’t understand what someone is saying, ask for clarification. “What I hear you saying is…” can help ensure that both parties understand.
Offer new solutions. You have the advantage of not being a “part of the system,” and may have new ideas. Do your research and find examples of what other schools have done.
Keep the focus. The school system is dealing with a large number of children; you are only concerned with your child. Help the meeting stay focused on your child. Mention your child’s name frequently, don’t drift into generalizations, and resist the urge to fight larger battles.
Stay calm, collected and positive. Go into the meeting assuming that everyone wants to help. If you say something you regret, simply apologize and try to get back on track.
Everyone—learning disability or not—has their own unique learning style. Some people learn best by seeing or reading, others by listening, and still others by doing. You can help a child with a learning disability by identifying his or her primary learning style.
Is your child a visual learner, an auditory learner, or a kinesthetic learner? Once you’ve figured out how he or she learns best, you can take steps to make sure that type of learning is reinforced in the classroom and during home study. The following lists will help you determine what type of learner your child is.
Success means different things to different people, but your hopes and dreams for your child probably extend beyond good report cards. Maybe you hope that your child’s future includes a fulfilling job and satisfying relationships, for example, or a happy family and a sense of contentment. The point is that success in life—rather than just school success—depends, not on academics, but on things like a healthy sense of self, the willingness to ask for and accept help, the determination to keep trying in spite of challenges, the ability to form healthy relationships with others, and other qualities that aren’t as easy to quantify as grades and exam scores.
A 20-year study that followed children with learning disabilities into adulthood identified the following six “life success” attributes. By focusing on these broad skills, you can help give your child a huge leg up in life.