by Shadra Bruce

If you have a special needs child, you are probably used to fighting with the schools to get the accommodations you know your child needs to be successful. Parents of special needs kids often start fighting for their kids from the time they are infants, but even as your child enters the teenage years you will find that your job as an advocate for your child is far from over. Your child needed you as a voice then and they need you now more than ever. Being a teenager is hard enough as it is; the last thing our teens need is problems with a school that doesn’t understand their unique challenges.

Schools are being forced to make unfortunate decisions with the budget cuts they are enduring, and you will quickly realize that your child’s individual needs are not their priority at times. What you also should know is that you as a parent have every right to make certain that your child is receiving the best care and education possible. You and your child have a right to many additional services that most schools do not always feel obligated to offer. It can be particularly frustrating if the school does not recognize your child’s disability. Do not let this discourage you from getting your child the services they need to succeed. Your teenager has the right to the best education available.

During the high school years, your teens will be building the foundations for their future. You have an obligation to your teen to speak up when a different teacher, classroom, or learning style would help your teen succeed.  There are many ways you can effectively advocate for your teen. The most important tool you have is knowledge. Know the laws on inclusion, accommodation, and special services.

Even if your school has not complied in the past does not mean they are not obligated to in the future. Your teen may also have the right to special tutoring and additional supplies at home. If you are struggling with how to properly advocate for your teenager keep, there are people in the community and within the school that can help you. Contact your teen’s school counselor. Not only do they know the specifics of the system but they can help ensure academic and social success.

Remember that no one knows your teen better than you. Don’t try to be adversarial with the school, but be firm about what you want the outcome of your teen’s educational experience to be. Then work with the school to put in place whatever tools and resources are necessary to make it happen.