School is a large part of a child's life, but when the child has special needs it can be a frustrating and difficult time for all involved. It is extremely important, as a parent, to advocate for your child and to maintain a strong and amicable relationship with your child's teachers. Explaining your child's condition to their teacher is essential so they understand the basis for any unusual behavior and can better handle it. This will also be helpful if your child needs extra academic support.
How to Be Your Child's Best Advocate: How to Talk to Your Child's Teacher
If your child is of school age, then some of the most important people in your child's life other than family and friends are his or her teachers. Teachers will be spending a lot of time with your child during the day. So, it is all the more imperative for you, as a parent and advocate for your child, to foster a good working relationship between you and your child's teachers.
Getting to Know Your Child's Teachers:
You begin the process of getting to know your child's teachers right from the beginning of the school year. Most schools have a "meet the teacher" day. Don't miss it. Most schools also have parent teacher
conference, especially for the primary grades. If you have a child who has special needs or you have concerns, these meetings are of great value to you as a parent. You want to find out the following information:
- Who are all the teachers and staff who will be involved with my child? If you are able, it would be a good idea to pay a visit to as many of your child's teachers as you can.
- When I have questions or concerns, what is the protocol? May I request a meeting? Do the teachers use email? What is the best way to contact you?
- Who is the support or resource person who will address any questions pertaining to my child's special needs?
- What are the school and classroom rules? What happens when a child violates these rules? What is the school policy as far as disciplinary action? What if I disagree with these actions?
- How do teachers reinforce or reward students for good behavior? You want to see if the teacher is focused upon positive approaches towards managing classroom behavior as opposed to a teacher who simply reacts and punishes.
- How will my child's special need be addressed in your classroom? If your child has an IEP, the stated goals on that plan must carry over into each and every classroom.
These are but some of the questions you may wish to ask your child's teachers. If your child has an IEP or Individualized Educational Program, then you may request a meeting at any time to discuss IEP
concerns. Basically you want to ensure that you understand how the teachers and school react to problems which may arise. You don't want to be in the situation where you are totally surprised by what happens in your child's classroom.
Ways to Foster Good Communication with the Teacher:
Start your sentences with "I feel" or "I think that" instead of an accusatory tone of "You don't do this or you don't do that".
Listen to what is said even if it is difficult to hear. We see our child at home and it may be a very different situation entirely when your child is in the classroom environment. You don't have to agree with everything being said, but listen in an active way. This means to seek clarification. Say things like, "What I am hearing you say is...", and then see if what you are hearing is what the teacher had intended to say.
Show empathy. It is true that some teachers are over worked with too many children in a classroom. Some things you wish the teacher could do may not be practical. Try to see things from the teacher's point of view of having to teach many children. This is no excuse for mistreatment of children, nor is it an excuse for your child not getting the education he or she is entitled to. But empathy does go a long way towards building rapport and a relationship with the teacher.
Convey that you are on his or her side in that you want to be of assistance to the teacher to help your child. If you and the teacher are at odds, then your child loses out.
It is a relationship builder to show appreciation for attempts the teacher has shown at meeting your child's needs. A little sugar goes a long way.
When there are problems:
Write it down. If you are having consistent problems with a teacher, then you need to begin documenting your efforts. Before scheduling a meeting, you should be able to send an email to the teacher outlining the problem and/or what you wish to talk about. Keep this documentation should you need it later if there has been no resolution.
Take notes at meetings. Write down what is said and enlist the teacher's help in clarifying what is agreed upon during these meetings.
Before ending a meeting with the teacher, write down an action plan of what will be done next to address the problem, a time table of when these things will be done, and who will do them.
Provide solutions. Instead of playing the blame game of who is not doing what, enlist the help of the teacher to come up with reasonable solutions to any problems within the parameters of school policy. If you question the teacher's interpretation of policy you can always ask for clarification from higher ups including the vice-principal and principal of the school.
If you need to, provide research, literature, letters from therapists,
doctors, or other educational experts to help define your points. Note that some teachers or school personnel will be defensive upon such presentations but in the end it may be just what you need to get what you need for your child.
An excellent way to get to know more about your child's teachers and what they do with your kid all day is to VOLUNTEER! Getting involved in this way will provide you with tons of information both about how your child copes within the classroom as well as what the teacher's strengths and limitations may be.
Request that the teachers have a written log or notebook to communicate with you and with other teachers during the day. It doesn't have to be anything cumbersome. Just a few notes written each day about your child's behavior from each of his or her teachers can give you a heads up as to any potential problems.
Here are a few resources to assist you in advocating for your child:
The Special Needs Education Hotline: 800-610-2779
See more at: http://www.healthcentral.com/adhd/c/849319/58012/advocate-teacher/?ic=1112#sthash.EREv0YtU