In my years of working with families there is always a “What” and “Why Now,” that leads them to my office. For example:
What: My child is always goofing off and getting into trouble
Why Now: My child is going to get expelled
What: I know there’s something “wrong” with my child
Why Now: I need answers, and everyone else is minimizing my concerns
There are various reasons why Parents seek out help, and I hope to provide some answers for Parents who do not know where to begin regarding concerns your child may be having at school.
If your child is “different” than other children of the same age, whether it be in motor skills, language, behaviors, aggressiveness, etc. Here are some ides that could be of help:
- Most public school systems have an Early Childhood Screening or Early Childhood Intervention programs. This is a good place to start because it’s free and accessible to any resident of that school system whether or not your intention is to send them to public schools
- Pediatricians may also offer additional referrals to Child Developmental Specialists, Pediatric Neurologists, or other specialty clinics as needed
If you’ve noticed that your child is struggling in school, and perhaps even failing all of their classes but are surprised that they were promoted at the end of the year. Chances are your child will be starting off the new school year in a new grade very behind. If various testing scores show that your child is more than 1 year behind their peers, here’s what you could do.
- Have a conversation with the school (teachers, principal, etc.) re: your concern about your child, determine if they too are concerned about various testing results or promotion to the next grade despite being behind.
- Schools could offer a 504 Plan- Special Accommodations, where your child could receive extra support(accommodations or modifications) to help them be successful at school. Some schools are quick to implement such plans, some schools are not. The 504 plan refers to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act which is a federal mandate that all schools will be familiar with.
- If you feel that a 504 Plan is not sufficient to help your child “catch up” or succeed in school, than you may want to pursue an IEP, Individual Education Plan, is another federal mandate from the Individual Disability Education Act (IDEA).
- If the school does not offer to proceed with the evaluation necessary to create an IEP for your child, you may submit a written+signed request on paper re: your concerns, possibility of disability that may be affecting your child’s learning, include any known diagnoses, letters from doctors or evaluations/testing that the school may not be aware of. Please have a copy of every correspondence with the school to create a paper trail.
- If your child attends a private school that does not provide testing, as a tax payer in your municipality, you have the right to access the services of the public school system for testing and evaluation. There may be a waiting list, but could be a helpful resource.
- If you ever feel that an IEP created for your child is insufficient, you do not have to sign the IEP document and can ask for changes, or additional services.
- By law your child is required to be retested every 3 years, or sooner if needed. As a parent you should meet yearly to review the IEP that is in place.
- If there are any gross concerns or areas of the IEP that are not being met, and the school is not able to accommodate and change, a second opinion may be necessary for testing+evaluation, or from an education attorney.
If you are in college or you have a young adult in college that has struggled in high school, there are options.
- Counseling Center, Student Services, Testing and Disability Services, etc., these are some of the names of offices at a college that can be helpful. In general all institutions of higher education have an office or person in charge of any physical, mental or emotional disability that may require additional supports to be successful student. If your child had an IEP in high school, it may be beneficial to connect with this person. If you have ADHD and require small setting for taking exams, or require extra time the college should be made aware before any difficulties arise
- Family Education Rights and Protection Acts(FERPA), when your child is 18, they are legally an adult. FERPA ensures that all student records are confidential and will only be shared with those that the student(18y/o and older) states that school can share information with. For instance if your child is on academic probation, or any disciplinary actions will not be shared with parents, unless the student consents, this even includes grades. Obviously this is a conversation to have with your college aged child each year re: FERPA and whether or not the schools should be allowed to contact parents if needed.
- If your child has had psychiatric hospitalizations in the past, or is at risk to have a relapse in anyway and you would like to be notified by the school, you and your child should discuss why it might be necessary for the school to be granted permission to reach out to the family when necessary.
- It may be necessary for you and your child to set up outside/”off campus” providers due to limited availability at the school’s counseling center, inability to meet the needs of your child, or greater sense of confidentiality and privacy.
If you have made it this far, hopefully you’ve been provided with some information to accessing help for your child.
*photocredit: Lego Asia