“Hey Lisa, I don’t want to alarm you, but I think Eric was having his lunch in the washroom today.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Lunch in the washroom? It couldn’t be true. Could it?
I immediately called the school to ask for a meeting to find out what was going on. Arriving at the school the next morning, I was ready for a fight.
At the meeting, the educational assistant confirmed that yes, she had indeed taken Eric into the washroom the previous day, to eat his lunch. Her rationale was that since he had been “spitting up” a lot that morning, she didn’t want his classmates to have to see that during lunch.
I asked if there was no alternative room and she replied that she didn’t think so. “
“There was no one else to confer with; the classroom teacher, the principal?” I asked
She replied that she didn’t think of asking anyone and that the washroom made sense to her so that if Eric were to “spit up” again, she could have easy access to the sink.
There was obvious unease in the room, with everyone knowing something had to be done.
I expressed that while I understood her perspective, it was my request that we explore an alternate solution for any future circumstances, for Eric and for any other students. Under no circumstances should lunch take place in the washroom. There was unanimous agreement.
Team meetings are an essential way to co-create solutions. As part of the school team, it’s a good idea to start the school year with a team meeting. Make your request to your child’s teacher or the special education consultant for your school board. Be sure to invite all members of your child’s school team, including school staff, community supports and someone who can take notes for you.
Before the meeting, be prepared with:
- Two or three important items that you want to discuss
- An agenda that lists the discussion items for everyone to follow
- A list of questions that you want to ask the school staff.
It is important to create an environment of respect for everyone. Emphasize to the school that you want to work with them as an equal partner.
Using Effective Communication and Strengthening Relationships
The way we communicate with people is a significant factor of a relationship. If you speak to people in a friendly and approachable manner the more likely you will develop a productive relationship or partnership. There will be many professionals and support people involved in your child’s life and having a good relationship with them will have a positive impact on your child’s health and well-being.
Professionals have a great deal of education, experience and consideration for your child. It is important to respect their point of view; work as a team; share expertise and develop a plan that will offer the best possible outcomes for your child. Each perspective should have equal value and finding a balance will be important. Collaboration is the key to a successful liaison.
If you have any questions about the policies and procedures of the school, don’t be afraid to ask the principal. It is important to value their time and it you do have questions for your child’s teacher or other professionals, it is a good idea to make an appointment so that they can offer you their undivided attention.
Advocacy is a term that is used to describe the action of supporting, pleading or arguing for a cause. Parents who have children with disabilities will do a lot of “advocating on behalf of their son or daughter. “
Your success in getting someone to understand your point of view will depend upon the approach that you use. A positive approach will get you positive results. Others are more likely to listen to what you have to say if you talk to them in a respectful and courteous manner. This is called effective advocacy. Using effective advocacy is an approach that will help you and your
Ways to Increase Your Advocacy Skills
- Develop good communication skills so that you are able to clearly state your needs in a positive and constructive manner
- Find out who can assist you should barriers arise
- Talk to other parents and share strategies
- Keep a record of phone calls, home visits, and other communications with parents, agencies, school boards and government
- Attend conferences or workshops that will enhance your skills and knowledge
- Look for opportunities to share the parent perspective throughout your community
These tips were taken from my ebook, “Learning Together: Tips for a Positive School Experience”. Please visit the resources page on my website, lisaraffoul.ca and download the entire ebook for more tips on effective communication, developing a relationship with your school community and inclusive education.