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School Relationships

Proactive vs. Adversarial

I will not pretend that having a positive relationship with the school for most of those years is easy; indeed it is one of the greatest life challenges you will ever face. At each juncture, you need to ask yourself, "Will this benefit my child?" And, I am sorry to say, if the answer is "yes", you need to plow forward as best you can. That being said, it does not need to be an adversarial relationship.

I believe my son's elementary years were the hardest and that in spite of an occasional teacher who didn't want him in her class, a principal who wanted to support her staff, and an occasionally overbearing, over-nurturing special education staff, he received a wonderful academic foundation in those years. The principal and I had a significant respect for each other and occasionally solved problems behind closed doors to avoid awkward meetings in front of her staff. To this day, I can tell you I learned a lot from that principal and she from me. We continue to respect each other; here is the reason. In spite of significant differences, we talked openly about the desire to sign an IEP without an attorney unless that was absolutely necessary. It never became necessary.

Strategies that work:

Humor! When a teacher bemoans only having a summer to prepare for having your child in her class, it is worth mentioning that you had less lead-time. In most cases, the baby was born and in our arms before we had an inkling there would be a problem. And yet, we made it work!

          "I can empathize with your anxiety. I had about a minute to adjust to the changes in my life as a result of Liza's (autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy) and remember the fear well. Fortunately for you, your Masters in Education will make your path even easier than mine!"

-Cynthia Kidder


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