The Child with Special Needs: Communication between Parent and Teacher

About the Author

Denise W. Anderson has an Education Specialist Degree in School Psychology and a Special Education Administration Credential. She became familiar with the special education process as the parent of a child with special needs and has worked as a paraprofessional in a special needs classroom, a School Psychologist, and Special Education Director.

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We waited an extra year for Chantelle* to start kindergarten, but things did not improve. Her teacher said that she would not speak in class, in fact, she would hide her head and cry whenever she was spoken to. Thankfully, the teacher took time to work with her before and after school, and helped her to learn what she needed to be ready for first grade, but felt that she was not emotionally ready.

Rather than choosing retention, we requested testing for special needs status. It was determined that Chantelle had emotional disorders that were affecting her abiltiy to function in the school and community settings. We had worked with her enough at home that she was able to function somewhat normally there, but at church and school, she was considered to be unmanageable.

Chantelle was placed in a special education classroom for children with Emotional Disturbance. We frequently went to the school, both for meetings, and to see how she was doing. The teachers used similar techniques that we used in our own home, and Chantelle blossomed. By third grade, she was ready to go back to the regular education classroom. During her school years, my husband and I learned many things about how to communicate with Chantelle's teachers that may be helpful to the parents of other children with special needs:

*Name has been changed.

Children with special needs come in all colors and sizes. Teachers and parents need to work together for their school success.
Children with special needs come in all colors and sizes. Teachers and parents need to work together for their school success. | Source

1) Be There

Once your child has been identified as a child with special needs, be visible at the school. Let teachers know that you want to work with them for your child's success. Attend the meetings. Come prepared with ideas and helpful information. Speak up when you feel uncomfortable about what is happening and help them come up with a plan that will work better.

Respond to letters, phone calls, notes, and other forms of communication from the teacher. Talk about things that have worked at home. Bring examples of things your child has done that show skills that may not be readily evident at school. Share positive experiences that give examples of talent and ability.

2) Ask Questions

There are many words and acronyms that are unfamiliar to the parent at meetings for children with special needs. Let the professionals know that you are willing to learn what these mean and want them to be explained to you.

Remember, you are the expert on your child. They are the experts in the education system and how it functions. It is necessary for you to become a team for your child to be the winner. Take an active role in planning and preparing activities and learning experiences that will help your child to be successful.

Obtain the contact information of those on the team, and communicate with them outside of the meeting setting. Give them your contact information, and allow them to contact you when there are concerns. Let them know that you want to hear about progress made, as well a issues that may arise.

Children with special needs are very sensitive. The amount of sleep they get, the foods they eat, and what people say to them makes a difference at home and at school.
Children with special needs are very sensitive. The amount of sleep they get, the foods they eat, and what people say to them makes a difference at home and at school. | Source

3) Be Willing

The atmosphere at school is different than the atmosphere in your home. Your child may be reacting to things at school that do not happen at home. Be willing to work with the school teachers to help solve problems that arise. Come and observe what is happening if you don't understand it.

Help teachers come up with a plan, work the plan, and change it as needed. Children with special needs are people, not objects. They grow, progress, and change. As they do so, plans need to be adjusted and information collected. Encourage teachers to write down what is happening so that when you come in, you can talk about it objectively.

Be careful to keep your emotions in check. Don't let anger and frustration get the best of you, especially if your child comes home with poor grades or a report of having been hurt by an insensitive classmate. Talk to the teacher about your concerns and work together for a solution.

Children with special needs will be successful in school when parents and teachers work together in their behalf.
Children with special needs will be successful in school when parents and teachers work together in their behalf. | Source

4) Give Encouragement

Let the teacher know when you observe progress. Express appreciation for the effort put forward in your child's behalf. Having a child with special needs is not easy, as a parent or a teacher. Avoid finding fault when things don't go as expected, rather work together for a solution that is acceptable to all involved.

Keep a record of positive comments that teacher has made about your child. Review them when things are difficult. Remember the good times and the progress made. Keep a journal and scrapbook that helps you review with your child what has worked for them. Let the new teacher see what worked in the past.

Communication between parents and teachers in behalf of the child with special needs enables school personnel to have the information needed to make important decisions on how best to teach the child. Research based techniques are only as good as the professionals ability to adapt them to the individual needs of the children that they work with.

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Comments 11 comments

MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean

Thanks for sharing your experience and the tips to make parent-teacher communication effective. Did you study in this area because of your child? Whether or not, you're doing a heck of a job educating us. Thank you.


Eliza Anderson 3 years ago

you do have a lot of good information than can answer questions people have concerning each other's welfare.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Yes. I found that my experience as a parent of a child with special needs gave me a greater understanding of others who were in the same situation. I was able to help them in ways that I could not have otherwise. Thanks for your comments, MsDora and Eliza.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 3 years ago

I admire those who work with children with special needs and the parents of these wonderful children. Your post is very enlightening on the subject and useful in understanding how best to communicate needs.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

I appreciate your kind comments, teaches12345. I have found these people to be highly resilient and willing to do anything to help their children. Their needs are many and varied, and the patience they have in the face of difficulty is amazing!


ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 3 years ago from New Delhi, India

I had one girl in my class, who one can classify as a 'Special Needs' child. I agree with your suggestions in this hub. Both parent and teacher have to work hard and with constant communication and coordination, the child with special needs can learn amicably and lead a normal life like other children of his/ her age group. These children sometimes have special talent, which may not be academic. That must be identified and encouraged by both parents and children.

Great hub!

Thanks for sharing your personal experience on an important topic. Thanks for the Follow too.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks for reading and commenting, ChitrangadaSharan. Children with special needs sometimes have amazing gifts that we don't recognize in the school setting. Thanks for making the effort to work with your student and his or her parent to help them be successful in school.


Mary Merriment profile image

Mary Merriment 3 years ago from Boise area, Idaho

Excellent advice for parents to collaborate with the school to help their special needs child excel. Sadly though, sometimes the tables are in the opposite direction. I have worked with special needs children whose parents did not want to be bothered by dealing with these special gifts. They expected the school and therapists to take care of everything, while the child was defeated by home issues. These are heartbreaking experiences to witness.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Yes, Mary, that is unfortunately the case in many instances. The parents have more issues than their children, and it is difficult to get the communication process even started. I worked on a Native American reservation for four years as a School Psychologist, and on another for two years as a Special Education Director. This issue was the biggest deterrent to the success of our children in special education. I suspect it is in many places. Our ability to deal with these types of situations may be a determining factor in our own feelings of effectiveness as educators.


Machashabah profile image

Machashabah 3 years ago from The Coast

I appreciate the way you started your article with a story. I know that a lot of parents and teachers can relate to when a child is first identified as needing a different classroom setting. I'm grateful that you also include other settings such as your church.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Having a family member with special needs can be challenging, Machashabah. As we work together with their teachers and team members, we can help our children be successful in school and in the community. These children do have gifts and talents. When we recognize these and give the children positive feedback, their feelings of self-worth increase, and they feel strength to deal with their difficulties.

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