I always assume that everyone is doing the best they can. The student is trying to be a student. Parents are trying to be parents, and are feeling stretched into being unlicensed doctors and educators. Educators are trying to be educators, and they are pulled into a healthcare space to try to figure out what operational and physical changes might be needed to successfully educate your child.
Many misunderstandings arise when student-patients and parents expect others to know more than they do. As parents, we are pulled into the world of figuring out what the doctors are telling us, trying to understand what that means medically, and using our tenuous understanding to teach the school so that they can make the appropriate accommodations.
With my background in biochemical sciences, cultural and linguistic analysis, economic research, and the law, I work to bridge the gaps in understanding between professionals with very different training from one another. Medical recommendations made without the context of the school's operational and legal framework can make reasonable accommodations appear to be unreasonable. School decisions that appear to be reasonable can sometimes cause harm to the patient. The student-patient and parents can feel frustrated and poorly served when the medical and educational professionals have trouble sorting out the confusion. And the professionals may feel frustrated when their best efforts are met with distress and anger from the patient and parents.
Parents are the key to helping everyone work together. Of understanding which professional is capable of providing what solution, and scheduling and coordinating that help. The student-patient is the key to progress and success, working productively with each member of the medical and school team. Conflicts are opportunities for the student-patient to to talk to people with whom he or she disagrees. It's a valuable life skill that Pete Seeger advocates, and that will help the student-patient successfully manage school, and life beyond.
In the meantime, Rosie looks great. She is up and about, back to her old self, and wanting this to just go away. She is still a High School Junior about to have a very important academic year. Rosie's mom is, understandably, overwhelmed by the fright of a mysterious serious illness and the newness of the situation. How do we respect Rosie's need to live life as usual, while at the same time protecting her from some of the risks related to her diagnosis and her treatment?
For Rosie, proposed accommodations included:
As parents, we worry. Maybe the school won't believe that we need the help. Maybe the school won't be fair about how they help. Maybe our children will be punished for not being perfect. These are worries that the school accommodations laws address. Securing a lawyer to help dissolve these worries by applying your facts to the laws lets you focus on parenting.
And there is a lot of parenting to do when your children are facing medical crises. Our children worry about whether they will be all right, whether they will have to give up dreams, whether you are going to be able to deal with this medically, emotionally, and financially. This is on top of the normal teenage worries about friends, grades, acne, college plans, etc. Especially when your children are "medical puzzles" or "medical mysteries," there is tremendous uncertainty about what will come next.
Rosie's mom tells me that I am "an angel who does not need wings." With Rosie's medical crisis, her mom was suddenly a "newbie" in the world of parents who deal with these things. The fears we experience when our children are critically ill, and when we don't have good medical answers that lead to a cure, can be paralyzing. But our children need us to show them that life does go on. Who they are has not changed. How we do things might have changed, but they are still the beloved child who will do great things in this world.
Who would've thunk a lawyer could help with that?
To contact me to provide assistance with your situation, or to contact Rosie's mom, please fill in the form below.
Mari Franklin is a counselor at law who specializes in helping students secure accommodations at school.