Special needs parents need a good working relationship with their children’s teachers and other school staff. You and your children’s teachers have the same goal, helping your children reach their potential. Even if you do not agree on every issue, it is in your children’s best interests to work as partners. Here are some tips to help you develop that relationship.
Do research to get information on the school from other parents and people in your community
- Find out who the decision makers are.
- Get copies of policies which affect their children, including policies on homework, anti-bullying, behavior, discipline, restraint, special educational needs and disabilities.
- Find out who their children’s teachers will be including any resource or
learning support teachers and any special needs assistants or other paraprofessionals.
- Talk to other parents to get their views on teachers and school staff.
Set up a meeting with your special needs child’s school
Arrange a meeting as early in the school year as possible, or even before the school year starts, with the key staff in your children’s schools. The purpose of this meeting is to:
- Introduce your children to their school
- Educate the school staff about your children’s strengths and weaknesses
- Tell the school what techniques work for your children as well as those that don’t
- Find out what supports the school plans to offer your children
- Find out what types of assistive technology are available and whether any will be used with your children
- Ask about the resources available from the school or school district
- Get an idea of the timetable for putting together an IEP, if your children qualify for one
- Discuss the best way to communicate with your children’s teachers
This initial meeting sets the tone for future interactions. You want to encourage cooperation, not confrontation. This introductory meeting allows you to paint a picture of your children and their strengths and weaknesses. Don’t assume that school staff are familiar with your children’s special educational needs, even if other children with the same diagnoses as your children’s already attend the school. You have limited time for this meeting, so make an agenda of the points you want to cover at the meeting. Put your most important points at the top so you address them before you run out of time.
Give the school information on your child with special needs
Give the school a written profile of your children and include the following information:
- Photo(s) of your child
- Brief description of the diagnosis taken from a reputable source
- How this diagnosis impacts on your children’s learning and behavior
- Any specific issues that might arise at school and possible solutions
- What works and doesn’t work for your children
If possible, use quotes from medical reports and assessments when describing your children’s diagnoses and needs. This will increase the credibility of your memo. If you have a helpful article, include a few copies for the school.
After the meeting, send a letter to the school confirming your discussion and any agreements that were made. If you didn’t get to all the items on your agenda, ask for another meeting.
I originally published this article on Examiner.com.