Most parents whose children reach school age envisage sending their children off to school in their new shoes and backpacks and waving as the bus pulls away.

This role in their child’s school experience would involve packing lunches, driving on field trips, bringing in cupcakes and helping with home work. But for many parents this dream quickly evaporates when they realise their child is struggling, not excelling, in school.

Whether a child is gifted or learning disabled, unique students who don’t fit into the traditional mould of learning soon find that school is a daily dose of frustration, humiliation and failure.

Parents of these students are often caught by surprise when their role shifts from one of quiet support to that of educated advocate.


Helping your child does not take away from the other children. Your child has a constitutional right to an equal and adequate education.

Be clear on what you think the problem is before you initiate a meeting. The school may not realise there is a problem.

Research the problem and possible solutions before you meet with the school.

Be positive in negotiating with the school. Show a willingness to co-operate and do your part to help.

You are the expert on your child and his or her best advocate. Some gentle and persistent pushing may be necessary. Insist on testing if it is needed and educate yourself on the meaning of the results.

Be present in the classroom, offer help, pay attention, notice and always monitor your child’s progress or lack thereof. If you reach a stale mate and the school is unable to help your child adequately, don’t settle.

Find the help your child needs outside of the school. If possible, try to integrate this into the regular school day. Never forget that your child possesses the ability to learn, he or she just learns differently.

Be prepared for anything. It may work out the way you anticipated, but as long as you are there for your child, he or she will be okay.