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Communicate and Collaborate with Schools

Margaret V. Austin, Ph.D., edited by C. E. Zupanick, Psy.D.

Communication and collaboration, between the caregivers and school officials, are critical when a child has special academic needs. Working with the schools demands a lot from caregivers. Essentially, caregivers must become their child's case manager and advocate. This requires exceptional communication skills and diplomacy.

schoolCaregivers are in a unique situation. They know more than anyone else about their child. Because of this special knowledge, caregivers often become the unofficial case manager for their child. They usually coordinate the activities of many professionals that work with their child. For this reason, caregivers should obtain and keep copies of all evaluations; documents from any meetings concerning their child; healthcare records; documents regarding prior treatments and placements. It is also helpful to maintain an updated contact list of all the professionals who have worked with your child.

Caregivers should form a partnership with the team of professionals involved in the evaluation and/or treatment of their child. Meetings with this team will typically occur at the child's school. The goal of these meetings is to gain an accurate understanding of your child's strengths and weaknesses, and how ADHD affects him or her. This understanding helps the team to develop a realistic, individualized, educational and behavioral plan.

Caregivers have the right to provide input at team meetings. This input can be in the form of a written report. You might ask for input from your child's physician, the school psychologist, or a child therapist. If you have consulted other professionals, such as a psychiatrist, educational advocate, or behavior management specialist, they can also provide useful information at these meetings.

In addition to all these case management duties, caregivers must also become the child's advocate. Caregivers have a vested interest in finding the best treatment options available. It is their role to represent or protect their child's best interest. Caregivers can become the best advocates by familiarizing themselves with their legal rights and responsibilities. The laws affecting children with ADHD were reviewed in another section LINK. The more familiar you are with these two laws (IDEA and Section 504) the easier it is to advocate for your child's rights. See the resource section at the end of this article to obtain the CHADD fact sheet #4, "Educational Rights for Children with ADHD." (Education, n.d.).


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