When your child with special needs heads off to school, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed as you hand the care of your child to another person. As your child’s parent and advocate, you need to understand that the classroom teacher is an important partner in the days and years ahead. Here are some tips to help you create a positive partnership to help your child succeed.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Being able to talk to your child’s teachers, even when you have concerns, is key. Keep the lines of communication open and positive. If your child’s teachers know that you support them, they will be more willing to listen when you have a concern. Know what form of communication the teacher prefers, and use that line of communication whenever necessary to get the information you need. When the teacher responds to your questions or raises concerns of his own, be willing to listen and consider changes as they may benefit your child.
Remember, however, that your child’s teacher has many students, as many as 30 in one classroom at a time, and your child may not be the only one with special needs. That’s why it’s important to respect your child’s teacher’s preferred form of communication. If your child’s teacher prefers that you contact her by email, then do so, giving her the freedom to answer when she’s not dealing with a classroom full of students.
Children with special needs thrive in consistent environments. Talk with your child’s teacher about what you can do to create consistency between the classroom and your home environment, especially when it comes to school work. Present the teacher with tactics you have found to work to support your child, then ask the teacher what they would like for you to do at home as well.
Speak Positively About Teachers at Home
Sometimes in this journey, you are going to face a teacher that you simply feel is not giving your child the best experience. As your child’s advocate, you are going to need to address this, but don’t make the teacher’s job even harder by talking badly about the teacher at home. Remember to keep your conversation in front of your child positive about the teacher, even while making sure your child knows you are going to go to bat for him.
Know What Information to Provide
Sometimes, it can be overwhelming to know what information to give to your child’s teachers. What do they need to know, and what would it be best to overlook so they can avoid drawing conclusions? Consider presenting the teacher with a short, one-page description of your child, including both weaknesses and strengths, as well as information about the accommodations that have helped in the past.
Know What to Ask
When you meet with your teacher, know what to ask so you can get to the heart of the issues surrounding your child quickly. Remember, your teacher’s time is limited, and you don’t want to waste it or create frustration. Some questions to ask may include:
- What will my child need to accomplish this year?
- How will you measure academic progress?
- What kind of accommodations would your recommend for my child’s diagnosis?
- Is there any information about my child’s diagnosis that would be helpful for you?
- What do you want to know about my child?
- What can I do at home to support what you are doing in the classroom?
- How should I communicate with you throughout the year?
Remember, when asking questions, keep things friendly and avoid becoming judgmental in your tone or approach. You are in a partnership with this teacher, so keep everyone on the same page.
Throughout the year, you are going to build a deep relationship with your child’s teacher. Even when times are challenging, you are going to need to keep that relationship open, honest and positive. With these tips, you will be able to build a good working relationship with the people responsible for your child’s education.