Communicating with your child’s teacher on a regular basis is important to your child’s success in school. When that child has special needs, this factor becomes even more crucial.
Special needs children may fall into one or a combination of the following categories:
Cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, etc.
Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Down Syndrome, dyslexia, etc.
Visually impaired, hearing impaired, tactile defensiveness
These impairments can severely limit a child’s ability to function successfully in school and since, in most cases, the child cannot effectively communicate his needs, it is up to the parent to provide the teacher with as much information as possible to help her deal with your child.
When to Begin
Communication with your child’s teacher should begin during enrollment. Inform the teacher what the child’s diagnosis is, if there is one, and let her know that you would like to communicate with her regularly to make your child’s transition as easy as possible. The teacher may suggest communicating by one of the following: phone calls, emails, text messages, communication books. Whatever methods are agreed upon, be sure to follow through.
Some teachers do not like to give out their phone numbers because parents do not always respect boundaries. If your child’s teacher does give you her number, be sure to ask what time you may call and how long the call should last. Remember, your child is not the only one your teacher has to look after, so please show some consideration for her time.
In this age of technology, this form of communication can be quick and effective. Emails allow you to gather your thoughts and go into a little more depth than you would with a phone call. They also serve as a reference point that you can look back on to clarify something or to follow up on at a later date.
Smartphones have become an indispensable tool nowadays and many people, teachers included, use them throughout the day. Therefore, they are a much faster way of reaching your child’s teacher if you have an urgent need to communicate with her or vice versa. While the teacher may not see your email until she is doing paperwork at the end of the day, your text may reach her almost immediately.
At the beginning of the year, you can record your child’s special needs, escorted bathroom breaks at specific times, his favorite activities, food, books, triggers, and calming activities you use at home. Some teachers may go so far as to formulate goals with you and use the book to record how many of those goals were met at the end of the day. You are required to do the same at home and use this during meetings to compare the child’s progress.
In all of these methods of communication you should try to be as specific as possible, i.e., you can say, “he ate all his breakfast with no help.” Or, “he worked on his coloring book for 10 minutes.” This way you and the teacher can tell if the child is making progress and if you need to upgrade his goals or leave them as they are.
A teacher’s job is hard and sometimes unthankful. Show your appreciation to your child’s teacher by sending her a text now and then to let her know how much it means to you when she does something special for your child. Offer to volunteer in the school library or office and be sure to let the principal know who you are and how much you appreciate your child’s teacher. And a box of cookies or chocolates on her birthday works wonders every time.
Despite the best efforts on both sides, things may sometimes go wrong. Your child may fall, run away, or have a serious meltdown. When this happens, take a few deep breaths before you say anything, then ask for information. If the teacher has been taking good care of your child all along, you can rest assured that she will continue to do so. Show understanding and compassion and let the teacher know you don’t blame her for what happened. This may be a good time to schedule a meeting to see how you both can prevent such occurrences in the future.
Being the parent of a special needs child is hard work, but by following these tips you can help your child navigate through school and, later on, in life with some measure of success.