Advocating For Your Special Needs Child
Talking with a teacher is always hard. It's about advocating for your child. It's especially hard if the teacher has already heard through the grapevine or seen your child's school record. But, what if a new teacher does not know anything about your child?
For years, advocating has been a part of my life. I've met with teachers, after-school counselors, etc. all to deal with Bob's behavioral and academic issues. That's my role as the parent. Meeting with anyone to talk about Bob should be a breeze, but it is the first time in a long time that I'll be talking with someone who has no idea of Bob's ADHD.
This summer, Bob was given an amazing opportunity. The school principal recommended Bob for a free program for in-coming 7th graders who are also very bright. This program is designed to meet the needs of gifted students and teach them different skills that would help them maximize academic success. The prep program is in a high school located on a local university campus. I was happily surprised during the orientation.
It was not until the second week of the program that I realized nothing on his application addressed any medical or psychological issues. That is, they did not ask for it. At first, I was a bit nervous about it. It was the first time that Bob's ADHD was NOT shared with any educational staff. It was not the center of attention. As things were going well with Bob, I didn't think of it much after that.
Until I received a phone call from the director of the program (who also has taught for nearly 30 years) asking to speak with me. And here I thought I'd have a summer free of any issues. Turns out, Bob did not tell me that the director was asking to meet Bob's father and I to discuss some behavior issues that have come up. It happened just as I was on the way to drop Bob off to the program before going to work.
Time to Speak Up
I get why Bob did not want to say anything. Bob just wants to be a regular kid in a regular program. He does not want his ADHD advertised because it has affected him socially. I also want Bob to be a regular kid. To not be viewed as an ADHD kid, but a kid with ADHD. I spoke with Bob about it. I wasn't upset, I just wanted his point of view. Bob was honest about his behavior (being disrespectful and not paying attention) and felt bad about it. He always does. So I've got a meeting with the director today. I don't know how it will turn out. But, I do know that I will have to talk about Bob's diagnosis and medication.
Advocating for Bob is my job. It isn't about talking Bob out of trouble. It is about spreading awareness and understanding. And letting people know that Bob is a brilliant kid who also happens to have ADHD.
Zalamar, H. (2013, July 18). Advocating For Your Special Needs Child, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, August 11 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/parentingchildwithmentalillness/2013/07/conversations-advocating-for-bob
Author: Heiddi Zalamar, LMHC, MA
I'm dyslexic. I also have ADHD, inattentive type, but it wasn't diagnosed until college, and might not have been diagnosed at all if it weren't combined with dyslexia. When I was younger, my mom advocated for me with the schools. But by high school, it was more of a shared responsibility, and in college, I had to advocate for myself to get any accommodations I needed. Since I don't have any obvious behavioral problems as a result of either dyslexia or ADHD, after elementary school, when I had clearly been struggling academically, if I didn't bring it up myself, none of my teachers or professors would have any reason to ask about it, so it was up to me to initiate a conversation (or not, as the case may be). I didn't usually need much other than extra time on exams (to compensate for my extremely slow reading and writing), but it was up to me to request it if I needed it. I never liked having to ask for extra time, both because I wanted to be a "normal" student and hated that I needed special accommodations (at least, I used to -- by the later years of college, I realized that it had some advantages beyond simply having what I needed to compensate for my challenges; for instances, all my professors knew me by name, even in large lecture classes), but I also have pretty significant social anxiety and just hated having to initiate a conversation at all.
There was a class or two in high school where I never did disclose my dyslexia, and made it through without extra time on exams or any other extra help. But in retrospect, I just made things a lot harder for myself than they needed to be. Sure I got a good grade in the end, but there was no reason I needed to spend all that time trying to race through reading exam questions and writing my answers in the hopes I'd finish in time. There were also times when I put off asking for accommodations until a day or two before an exam on which I was going to need extra time, but luckily at the schools I went to, my teachers and professors were pretty good about putting up with the last minute requests.
Hi Emily. Thank you so much for coming by and sharing your experience. I usually hear from parents who have such a hard time with their children understanding their own diagnoses and problems that arise from them. Good for you for recognizing that advocacy is not only a parent's responsibility, but yours, too. Sounds as if your mom's good example rubbed off on you. Congratulations on all of your hard work and dedication. Please visit again soon.