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.
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.
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.
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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