On September 9, Understood, with the American Academy of Pediatrics, UnidosUS, and CCSSO, hosted a virtual Town Hall featuring discussions with parents, pediatricians, teachers, and experts about how to address academic and emotional challenges that may arise this school year, and ways to make it a positive experience for all. View a full recording of the event on our YouTube or Facebook channels.
The discussion ranged from virtual and in-person learning challenges, to IEPs and 504 plans, to how to start conversations with pediatricians, teachers, and families, and beyond.
Key takeaways from some of the panelists:
- Noticing and observing your child’s behaviors is a critical first step. “You are the expert on your child. If you’re seeing any changes in behavior — sleep changes, eating changes, if they’re not having an easy time paying attention, or they’re frustrated easily — these are all clues that can help us start the conversation,” said Nerissa Bauer, MD, MPH, FAAP, a behavioral pediatrician with the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Know your rights as a parent. “Families should know they have rights and that they are not alone as they are looking for support for their children. You are truly the expert on your child’s needs and development,” said Maria Moser, senior director of education programs at UnidosUS.
- Navigating virtual and in-person learning is challenging, but there are options to help create a better learning environment for your child. “As a parent, it’s really important for you to reach out to the school and teacher and ask them for what your child needs. ‘Can my child have the notes for this ahead of time? Can my child have a video to go back to? Can my child record this audio?’ You have all these different ways for your child to interact with the information,” said Amanda Morin, director of thought leadership and expertise at Understood.
Parents and teacher panelists also shared their firsthand perspectives on the new school year:
- Parent-teacher collaboration has never been more important. “This last year and a half has taught us yet again how important it is for teachers and families to be really proximate — to really rely on each other and support each other. One can’t do what they do without the other,” said Juliana Urtubey, 2021 National Teacher of the Year.
- Find support — through pediatricians, teachers, and community. “First, I would recommend advocating. For us, we had no idea where to start when we noticed a learning and thinking difference at home. Whether it’s seeking a professional like a pediatrician or even experienced parents through Facebook groups, it’s definitely helpful to have someone there to give you the guidance,” said Onyi Azih, PA-C, parent and lifestyle blogger.
- Know that you’re not alone. “Find community, like Understood, and resources like the Take N.O.T.E. tool. I relied on lots of friends who had been through similar situations. Don’t be scared to talk about the challenges you’re facing. It’s something you can embrace to grow with your child,” said Jesse Coulter, parent and lifestyle blogger.