As a parent, your ultimate goal is to educate school personnel so they want to help your child.
The most important ability to use in resolving problems with the school is to put yourself in the shoes of the people on the other side and answer these questions:
* How do they see the problem? (their perceptions)
* What do they feel and believe? (their beliefs)
* What do they want? (their interests)
* What are they afraid will happen if they give you what you want? (their fears)
You need to pick your battles. Here’s an example of how. A parent writes…
My son 18 has missed more than the allotted number of school days. He is bipolar and occasionally has a hard time getting to class on time. Tardiness is counted as a whole day absent. The school wants a doctor’s note every time.
The school also insists I provide them with a doctor’s note every year saying that he “STILL” has bipolar disorder. His school counselor said “Just a sentence on a letter head every year.” I say that is ridiculous.
There are several concerns here.
One concern is that schools don’t often know how to help children who really do have bipolar disorder. The parent’s frustration with the school’s request is understandable.
But as a parent, your ultimate goal is to educate school personnel so they WANT to help your child. This won’t happen if you refuse to provide information the school requests and let them know you view their requests as “ridiculous.” I’m not sure this is one that you can win without getting help from others.
If your child is often late to school because he oversleeps or because he is sick with minor things, you need to put yourself in the shoes of the educators and answer some questions:
* How does the school view your child? What are their perceptions?
* Do school personnel view him as a lazy teenager who doesn’t really have anything wrong with him?
* Do they view you as an overprotective mom who makes excuses for her child who won’t roll out of bed in the morning? (Why else would you refuse to provide them with the information they need?).
* School people are not mental health experts. What do they know about bipolar disorder?
* Does he take medication? How does this affect his sleep? Motivation? Ability to learn?
(this information needs to come from a health care provider – psychiatrist, psychologist, etc)
* Does your child have an IEP or 504 Plan? If he has a disability that adversely affects educational performance (and it sounds like he does), he should be eligible for special education services under IDEA. If he has a disability that does NOT have an adverse impact on educational performance, he should have a 504 Plan.
* Does the school have a policy that if a student has a medical or psychiatric condition, the school needs updated information from the treating physician at specific intervals (every year, every semester) that the student continues to have that condition?
* Does the school need information about how his condition affects his ability to learn and perform in school?
If school people view you and/or your child in a negative light, you need to change their perceptions.
This includes getting information from a treating psychiatrist or psychologist to begin educating teachers about your child’s condition and how it affects him and his ability to learn. This is the only way you will accomplish the goal of educating the school staff so they WANT to help your child.