When the September Dilemma Continues Into October

When the September Dilemma Continues Into October

For children who are ill, returning to school in September can be a mixture of relief and dread. Relief, because children thrive on the order, routines, and social life of school. Dread, because school can be an ambivalent experience for students who need some sort of accommodation in school. 
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While schools must meet the needs of ill and disabled students by law, administrators and teachers range from amazingly helpful to eye-poppingly intransigent when asked to deviate from their norm. Parents are often counseled to “wait and see,” but what can you do when September turns into October and your child hasn’t settled comfortably into school? 
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Thankfully, it doesn’t happen all the time. But it occurs often enough for us to have gleaned some advice from Chai Lifeline’s professionals and parents of children who are out of school for cancer treatments or who need extra assistance because of chronic illness or disabilities.  
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Work with your child's school to assure educational needs are met, but don't be afraid to be an advocate when the situation demands.

Work with your child’s school to assure educational needs are met, but don’t be afraid to be an advocate when the situation demands.

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Keep the lines of communication open. Sometimes schools don’t really know what to expect until the child is in the classroom (or out of it, if she or he is in the midst of treatment). Schedule a conference and come prepared with a list of specific areas of concern. Keep a paper trail of all discussions and decisions. You may need it later.

Decide whether the problem is in the facility, the personnel, the curriculum or another area. A school building without an elevator poses a different challenge than a teacher who objects to a shadow in the classroom.

Can the issue be resolved to your satisfaction? Is leaving your child with a classmate an adequate solution to taking a wheelchair outside for recess? Only you can balance the pros and cons of the educational situation.

Consider the total child. School is more than academics. It is also an important social and emotional learning experience. You don’t want your child to be socially isolated.fake oakley sunglasses

If necessary, don’t be afraid to look at other options.

 One of our clients made the tough decision to change her son’s school. Despite numerous conferences and conversations, she wasn’t happy with the school’s attitude toward her son, who is wheelchair confined and needs assistance with toileting. She complained that her son’s teacher was openly hostile to the assistant hired to help him. At gym, he was ignored. He had few friends and little was done to integrate him into the social life of his class.

All that changed this year. Her son is still the only child in the school in a wheelchair. But the school treats him differently, working hard to help him keep up with his peers. His gym teacher understands that he will never run, so he has devised games that utilize upper body skills like throwing or catching balls. His classmates are encouraged to see him as one of them, not as an “other” in a chair. His attitude about school has done a 180, and so has hers.

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