During my 25 years as a School Psychologist working in several different school districts in Colorado,
in addition to the experience of parenting three children who are now adults, I have concluded that public schools typically do a very good job "teaching to the middle".
In other words, it is a system that is designed to meet the needs of the "typical" student.
However, if you have a child who has learning needs that are significantly different from the "norm", you may find yourself needing to be an advocate for their needs within the school. Having an understanding of the options available to support your child within the school is important.
The supports available to children within the public school setting can be separated into three different types: universal interventions, accommodation plans and special education.
As you advocate for your child's needs, there are two adages to keep in mind that are equally true but yet very different.
The first is "The squeaky wheel gets the grease."
I have, sadly, seen many students fall through the cracks because they don't have parents who are willing, able or equipped to advocate for their child's needs within the schools. In spite of best intentions, their needs ultimately find themselves settling to the bottom of the stack. Even in relatively well funded districts in affluent communities, school staff are overworked and overwhelmed. They are, by and large, in the profession because they love kids and want to make a difference but yet find themselves stretched very thin.
This is where the second adage comes in "You catch more flies with honey than vinegar."
As you advocate for your child, it is important to assume best intent on the part of the school. They want your child to be successful! Time and time again I have seen teachers, administrators and others bend over backwards to make sure that children have every opportunity for success. Taking the time to build a positive relationship with your child's teacher and the school administration will be time well spent.
Communicating with respect and kindness will not undermine your power but rather will build positive relationships that you can then leverage for the benefit of your child.
Please Note: If you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest hospital for emergency services or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.