Monday, November 4, 2013

Advocating For Your Teen

If you have a teen that struggles with emotional issues, has a mental or physical disability, or has a learning impairment, you are probably used to having to fight for everything your teen needs to succeed in school and in life. It starts almost from the moment your child is born - if he or she has a challenge of some kind, you are forced to be your child's voice.It can be daunting to advocate for your teen, particularly if the school does not recognize the challenge your teen has as something they can easily compartmentalize and deal with. If your teen has dyslexia, he or she may have a very difficult time learning to read and succeeding academically, yet in many schools, dyslexia is not considered a learning impairment and they will not offer additional services to your teen.If your teen has a physical or mental disability but still wants to fully participate in the school experience, either by participating in a sport that would otherwise preclude his or her involvement because of the disability or because the school does not believe in integration, you may have to advocate for your teen to ensure that he or she is able to have the academic experience desired.Advocating for your teen can be challenging and difficult. You will not win every battle. In fact, the same advice I give to parents about raising teens works well when advocating for your teen as well: choose your battles wisely. If there are areas of compromise, seek them. Save your strength for the big battles, because there will be times when you absolutely will not be able to back down.There are several ways you can become a good advocate for your teen. First, educate yourself. Read your school's policies about inclusion, accommodation, and special services. Learn about disability laws that might affect you or with which your school may be obligated to comply.Remember that you are the only person who knows your teen the way you do. You see the strengths and challenges your teen has in a much more intimate light than a teacher or a school district, so you often know best what it is your teen needs. Do not be afraid to advocate for your teen, even if you are asking for an unusual accommodation. If your teen struggles academically, you can request everything from a second set of textbooks at home to extra time for testing.If your teen has struggles in specific subjects you can advocate for your teen to receive special tutoring. If your teen has a verifiable disability, he or she may be eligible for even more services.Sometimes, you may not be sure how to advocate for your teen, but you know he or she needs help. You should contact your teen's school counselor. Not only does the school counselor have access to resources within the school and within the community, but the counselor often can help you advocate for your teen to ensure his or her academic success.

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