by Meg Flanagan
Okay, so, nothing looks like it did last fall or even in February 2020. Nothing.
There have been strides made, especially when it comes to EFMP and special education for military kids, but also the pandemic. Really, we’re all flying by the seat of our pants here and no one really knows what to do.
Yes, you read that right. No one knows what to do.
Teachers, school principals, medical professionals, EFMP case workers. We’re all just trying to make this as “okay” as possible in the ways that we can.
Also, there’s not a whole lot of direction coming our way, especially for those with kids or who work with kids. That goes double for folks who help children in EFMP or who receive/teach special education at school.
However, parents (yes, that’s you!) can and should advocate for every single thing your child deserves. Yes, you do this 100% of the time in the pre-pandemic days. But now, as confusion reigns, the cracks that kids can slip into get bigger and wider and deeper.
Your Child Has Rights
And you need to use them!
Per the US Department of Education, IDEA is still 100% in effect. Which means that your kiddos gets their IEP as written. If the school wants to do something different, then they need your consent.
Okay, a caveat: We’re living in the darkest timeline with kids at home doing school online in many parts of the US. And the folks that do have some form of in-person learning happening are prepping for a possible return to distance learning or are mixing in-person with virtual. It’s a whole mess.
In this totally unusual time, we recognize that education as usual isn’t 100% possible. There are some services and supports that really only work well when they’re delivered in person and closer than 6-8 feet apart.
Schools are trying to serve their kids, but they could be overlooking a cool, comparable option that keeps kids and staff safe. If you’ve got an idea, share it! Schools are in a position to be flexible because there truly is no “way we do this” anymore.
Communication is Key to Success
Right now, the idea of being the squeaky wheel is something you need to use to your advantage. Because by being at the top of the inbox, sharing your concerns and questions in a professional manner, will get you the metaphorical grease. If you’re worried, say something. Have a question or suggestion? Say something.
How you say all of these things is key:
- When you’re sending emails that include a request, a concern, or a suggestion, it’s important to be polite and professional.
- Address the recipient(s) using their title, like Mr./Mrs./Ms or Dr.
- Use complete sentences with good grammar and punctuation.
Yes, seriously. These things really matter in how your request is received, processed and perceived.
State your Big Thing clearly and concisely. Provide evidence or other supporting details that make your point. Give links to other places where you’ve seen this particular thing happening or where more information can be found.
Basically, ask for what you want and what your child needs, ask questions. Be heard.
Creativity 100% Counts
Remember when I mentioned that literally no one knows what to do with this whole mess right now? Well, that also opens the door for your creative solutions!
Sometimes, schools and doctors and EFMP are so used to how things normally happen that it’s challenging to think outside the box. Parents, however, are constantly reinventing the wheel for their kids. You always try new things to get the results you want, whether it’s listening better or eating more green veggies.
If you have something that you’d like to try with virtual learning to get services delivered to your child in a non-traditional manner, speak up! You are the expert in your child. And also, as a military family, you’re probably kind of used to communicating via video chat, email and shared drives. There are infinite ways that we can meet the challenge of educating all students, but we’ve got to be creative thinkers.
Don’t Trust Too Much
You’d like to think that the people serving your family and supporting your child know what to do all the time. But that, frankly, may not be the case.
There are just too many anecdotal stories floating around the internet about military families being PCSed somewhere that 100% will not support their child’s educational or medical needs. Families who need a particular specialist, but then moved hundreds of miles from the nearest qualified provider that accepts Tricare. Or families who are moved to a DODEA district without the best education options.
Every time you hear “this is the way it has to be,” that’s your cue. Ask “Why?”
“Why is it this way?”
Ask the expert you’re speaking with to explain how your child will be best served by this decision. Ask if there were other options they considered. Most importantly, don’t just assume that because someone in a position of power told you to do XYZ that it is actually best or only choice available.
Meg Flanagan is a teacher, blogger and military spouse. She owns Meg Flanagan Education Solutions, an education advocacy service dedicated to serving families on the K-12 journey. You can find Meg on Facebook. Meg is also available as a freelance writer and personal education advocate!