There are key players in your child's educational experience. The teacher, the principal, and you all have clearly defined roles in your child's emotional, cognitive, and physical growth. There is, however, an often under-used player in schools across America; someone who is ready and willing to help. Each school has a guidance counselor, an important figure in the school but one that is often overlooked. The guidance counselor has a variety of "hats" to wear and can assist you and your child in many ways.

Scheduling High school guidance counselors often aid in the creation of class schedules. Your child may want to meet with his guidance counselor to discuss his schedule for next year. Although most core classes are pre-determined based on state graduation requirements, your child may have elective classes to choose from and having the guidance counselor discuss his options helps him choose the right one.

School-wide campaigns Schools have begun adapting specific curriculum or programs targeting bullying, drug or alcohol use, and healthy lifestyles among children. The guidance counselor is often the point person implementing these programs and training other school personnel to respond to situations regarding these issues. Reach out to the counselor for more information or for pointers on how to discuss these important topics with your children. Should your child be affected by any of these issues, you can use the counselor as a mediator or support for your family.

Individual counselingGuidance counselors are often wearing their "other hats" so don't forget their area of expertise. Your child may be having a hard time transitioning to a new school, establishing a positive relationship with a new teacher, or navigating a difficult friendship. Each of these situations may warrant a chat with the school counselor. Introduce yourself and your child to the counselor at the beginning of the school year so you have an established relationship.

References School guidance counselors often have experience beyond the school and a network of professionals to reach out to. If you feel your child needs help beyond the parameters of school, ask for a reference from the guidance counselor. Your child may need to speak with a professional whose experience is in a specific area, such as childhood depression or eating disorders. You may also feel your child may need more extensive counseling that will require time beyond the school day.

These are just some ways the school guidance counselor can help your child. Don't be afraid to reach out to the counselor and ask for assistance in other areas or ask her to direct you to the appropriate person. With all their roles in school, counselors are exceptional resources for you and your family.

Jennifer Cerbasi teaches at a public school for children on the autism spectrum in New Jersey. As a coordinator of Applied Behavioral Analysis programs in the home, she works with parents to create and implement behavioral plans for their children in an environment that fosters both academic and social growth. In addition to her work both in the classroom and at home, she is also a member of the National Association of Special Education Teachers and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.