By Paul Steffens
The success of a student with special needs often depends on an open and trusting relationship between his parents and teachers. The start of a new school year provides a great opportunity to begin building a cooperative and productive relationship. Here are some tips to get started:
Contact your child's special education and general education teachers before the year begins, especially if he is new to the school. Try to meet with each teacher in person, since face-to-face meetings are helpful to get to know one another. Since the beginning of the year can be hectic, assure the teacher you need only ten minutes. If necessary, follow up with a note or schedule a future meeting. Things to discuss at this first meeting are:
Work with the special education and general education teachers as a team. Include your child on this team, if appropriate for his age. What can each of you do to prevent problems?
As a group, discuss the accommodations and modifications that can support your child in his general education classroom. If possible, include your child in these discussions and ask for his ideas. Do you feel your child's IEP accurately reflects his strengths and challenge areas? All teachers appreciate knowing strategies that increase success in individual students as much as possible.
Communication between all parties throughout the year is key. Discuss a plan with the teachers for how everyone can stay in the loop, then stick with it! Some ways to keep communication flowing are:
A child's relationship with his school constantly changes. It's important for parents and teachers to be flexible and change their game plan if things aren't working. Because each child is unique, strategies and rewards need to be individualized and reviewed regularly.
There may be times when this is hard to do, but a little laughter can ease tension. It's natural for people to have differing points of view. Just remember that each person on your team has the best interests of your child in mind. A sense of humor and giving another person the benefit of the doubt can go a long way!
Parents and teachers working together (and with the child) contribute to a child's success at school. Each depends on the other for information and support throughout the school year. Although difficult at times, the rewards of this collaboration go a long way for everyone involved.