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Published on August 17, 2021

parent teacher conference

Advocate for Your Child in School

Parents only want the very best for their children. When something is troubling your child, the desire to help is overwhelming. But when it’s something happening at school, it can be confusing.

Do you have the right to advocate? Yes, you do. You want your child to do well in school. At the same time, you don’t want to be seen as “that parent” who is overwhelming teachers and administrators with demands that seem a bit “out there.”

So how do you do it properly? Here are some tips.

Don’t Assume Past Approaches Will Work

My oldest child was a fifth grader when these ideas became clearer for me.

I had another start child in first grade, and I thought the teacher would engage her active, alert personality. My daughter was one of the youngest in the class, starting kindergarten just two weeks after her fifth birthday. I was sure that this teacher would recognize my daughter’s impulsiveness and her need to move. Her previous teacher had.

Keeping an Eye on How Things Go

A few weeks later, it seemed I was wrong. My daughter’s “need to move” led her to getting in trouble. She couldn’t really stay in her seat while her teacher tried to finish a lesson. So it was time to talk.

This experience was new and unusual. My older child never had any additional obstacles or issues that affected her time in school. It was then that I realized no two children will have the same experience at school.

I worked with the teacher, explaining my younger daughter’s gifts, including how she noticed “everything.” Her teacher let her sit in the front, where she’d have fewer distractions. This conversation with the teacher led to changes that really helped, and the year went on without too much fuss. But then I realized it was time to finish first grade – how would her second grade teacher and my daughter work together?

Patience on Both Sides for Success

After talking with my younger daughter’s teacher, I realized she was creative and willing to make small accommodations for my daughter’s desire to move.

Some kids need to engage their muscles as well as their brain to learning and achieve the goals set for the class. The second grade teacher arranged it so my daughter could have a small squeeze ball while listening in class. This kept her hands busy, and allowed her to pay more attention. The teacher also provided a special cushion that let my daughter move a bit in her desk. It was the sensory input she craved, and it helped her avoid acting out.

These steps seem tiny in the grand scope of raising kids, but when it comes to a classroom with dozens of children, all unique, I was glad I took the steps I did. I reached out, and thankfully had educators respond to me in ways that could make my child succeed.

Give-and-take is an important part of advocacy. No parent is so caught up in their child they forget there are many other students. So be patient, persistent and talk things through. It really can help your child.

Part 2: Help Children Advocate for Themselves

Twila Perkinson is a Certified Child Life Specialist at Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center.

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