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Collaborating with other adults to address your child's learning difficulties

Your child will benefit when you build positive partnerships with her teachers and other professionals.

By Jan Baumel, M.S.

How do you work with all of the adults who interact with your child? What should you share with them? What can you expect from them?

Forming partnerships

To support your child in his efforts to learn, you'll need to work with school staff and other professionals, such as his pediatrician, tutor, or counselor. Since you know your child best, you have valuable insights and information to share. While you may not be familiar or comfortable with the school environment or a clinician's office, your participation is important. Together you can get a better understanding of your child's strengths, learning problems, the school process, the professional's contribution, and what you can do.

Collaborate with the adults who direct your child's activities outside of school, too. Explain his special needs to the coach, scout leader, or religious advisor to help them understand him better. If he's going to thrive on the sports field or in social groups, the leader may need to approach him differently to make sure he can succeed and build self-esteem.

You'll be the primary gatherer of information from all of the adults who interact with him. Remember to keep a notebook, file folder, or other method of storing data about your child so that it'll be at your fingertips when you need it.

Communicating

Share what you know by staying in touch with these adults through notes back and forth, quick check-off forms, email, voice mail, or informal conversations.

  • Inform them of your child's talents, interests, and strengths to build self-esteem.
  • Successful strategies at home may also work at school or in community activities — and vice versa.
  • Let them know what your child finds rewarding to keep him motivated.
  • Communicate regularly with everyone involved. Don't wait until things haven't been going well for awhile.

Be sure to inform them of issues at home that could affect your child's learning, attention, or emotional well-being, such as:

  • Changes in his health or behavior.
  • Parental disagreement over his needs and education program.
  • Family structure, including shared-custody, single-parent, or non-traditional households, if you feel it is having an impact on your child.
  • Sibling rivalry — arguments and fights may occur between brothers and sisters because they think he gets more of your attention and/or has different rules.
  • Your family's cultural traditions and customs if you feel it is having an impact on child-rearing, education, and learning disabilities (LD).
  • Environmental pressures, including homelessness, marital problems, family illness or death, domestic violence, substance abuse, emotional abuse, and financial difficulties.

In the spirit of collaboration, don't be afraid to ask the professionals to do these things:

  • Use plain words, not jargon, so that you can understand what's being discussed.
  • Schedule appointments so that you can have someone else attend with you — a spouse, family member, or friend.
  • Ask for copies of written reports.
  • Ask for suggestions on how to manage problems.
  • Ask what you can do to help your child at home.
  • Request recommendations and referrals for information and support.

Jan Baumel, M.S., Licensed Educational Psychologist, spent 35 years in education as a teacher, school psychologist, and special education administrator before joining Schwab Learning. Today she is a consultant to local school districts and university field supervisor for student teachers.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

04/28/2009:
"I am trying to find a school in the Torrance district for my son to go to middle school he has a ad/hd and other learning disorders. Please help find a shool on your website."
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