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Back To School Advice

Back to School: How to Enlist the School for Your Child's Needs

Maly Danino, Executive Director of The Nitzan Association and Mical Moldovski, Head of the Parent's Division at Nitzan compiled the best tips for parents about how to prepare for the new school year and how to enlist the school for your child's needs when the child has a difficulty or problem. The goal is to bring to the school an active, effective approach in order to help children who have learning, emotional, or social difficulties or difficulties of another type. The advice is intended for parents of children with learning disabilities and/or ADHD; however, also parents of children without difficulties like these can be helped by this advice to help their children.

When the summer break is over, and after the child has rested, comes the time to prepare from an academic standpoint for the coming year. This is the time to check what your child needs and what the program will be for next year at school and outside of school (including accommodations in testing methods, inclusion in learning settings, tutoring within and outside of school, and so forth).

For parents of children with learning disabilities, it's important to pay attention during the transition time from middle school/junior high to high school, since the assessment that was conducted at the beginning of 7th grade is valid for matriculation exams (bagrut exams) until 25-years-old.

How Can Parents Get Ready for the Next School Year?

Firstly, it's recommended to set a meeting with the school staff.  When the parents have a topic that's important for them to share with the staff, it's a good idea already at the beginning of the year to set up a meeting and not to wait.

The parents can request an organized meeting with the principal, homeroom teacher, and the school counselor. With this, the parents are motivating the staff for cooperation and updating the important agencies regarding the child. The feeling of the parent who initiates a meeting with the school is a feeling of power and strength, the feeling of a person who is bringing about change and isn't only responding and answering to the school.

During the rest of the year, other possible causes for requesting an organized meeting can be: a decline in the child's state, arousal of a difficulty or problem, end of year meeting, etc... A meeting that takes place at the parent's initiative obligates the school staff to prepare itself for the meeting, to discuss the student's state, to gather information, and to get updated.

Focus - these meetings are short and are usually conducted under the pressure of time. Since this is the case, the parents need to be prepared in advance for meetings like these.

Defining the request or expected action of the school - the parents need to arrive to meeting ready with a topic, defined and practical goals, solutions, and alternative solutions. The school staff, in general, cannot solve the problem during the meeting. Being as such, the parents need to guide the staff to a solution or to request a response to a specific problem and not to make do with "whining" or sharing with the staff the problems. If the school initiated the meeting, then the parents need to try to understand ahead of time what the purpose is and to come prepared.

Setting an Operational Goal -it's recommended that parents come to the meeting with a clear, reachable goal for the complicated reality of the school, and to leave it with decisions and a summary. There's no reason to come to a meeting whose purpose is "that the child should feel better at school". An operational goal should be for example: throughout the year the child will have 2-3 friends. With this goal come to the school and check with the staff how they can help with this.

It's worthwhile to define a small goal for change. When it's achieved, this will arouse the staff to try to reach additional goals. Big change begins with small change. After we define for ourselves that the child will make a small change, and we're successful in that, we can work on the next stage. The parents and children need to be focused on the area they want to invest their energies, to decide what's more important and what's less. Improving the relationship with the teacher? Making better grades in two subjects? It's necessary to choose areas that both the parents and school agree upon so that everyone will be motivated to bring about the change and contribute to it.

What do the Parents Need for the Meeting with the School?

The parents need a lot of knowledge in order to come to the school ready. Parents of children with learning disabilities and/or ADHD need up-to-date information in the area so that the language will be familiar with them and so they'll be successful making a cooperative relationship with the educational staff with the goal of helping their child together.

Printed in the Newspaper "Back to School" 31/08/09