Sunday, January 2, 2011
Meeting with School Officials
Oftentimes, the school’s administration and psychological team will try to intimidate parents; especially during the first meeting. As the old saying goes – the best defense is a good offense. As a parent, the better prepared you are, the more confident you will feel. And your child will be the benefactor.
Research the school’s programs offered to other students and what you believe to be your child’s needs. This is key! Too often, schools are more concerned about their budgets and will try to deny services or limit your child’s access to services. Don't be afraid to ask for more than is being offered.
Do not feel that you have to be alone, either. In the U.S., you can join your state’s advocacy group for support and they may provide you an advocate or be able to refer you to a local advocate. In lieu of this, both parents should make an attempt to attend. If you anticipate issues arising and you can afford it, a lawyer is also advisable. There’s nothing wrong with doing a little intimidating yourself! At any rate, bring someone with you to serve as a witness to what is said in the meeting. And take notes!
Another piece of advice I always give to parents is that from the moment they learn they have a gifted child, keep meticulous records. Few school district personnel or teachers have the time to keep track of your individual child as well as you can. Keep records of every time you communicate with a teacher or anyone from the school; i.e., psychologist, principal, administrator and insist that you get it in writing. The easiest way to do this is to require all communication be done by email. Information conferred during a phone call can never be proven. Even the nicest, most well-intentioned teacher has a tendency to defer to their school’s principal or district superintendent during a meeting where all parties are present.
Before you agree to a meeting, at the very least, have a working knowledge of gifted education and what you want to request for your child. The library and Internet are both good sources of information. Two of the best books for newcomers are Christine Fonseca’s Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students and Karen Rogers’ book, Re-forming Gifted Education.
Once you get through the first meeting, you’ll have a better understanding of what to expect the next time. I’m not going to say it will get easier; it probably won’t. And the meetings will continue until your child is finished with school. During the last few years of high school, it is advisable to start including your son or daughter in these meetings. When they go to college, they will need to be able to advocate for themselves. This is especially important if your child is twice-exceptional.
Life as a gifted parent can be a roller coaster or it can be a walk on the beach with the waves rolling in. It’s all in your viewpoint. I prefer the beach.