By Kodey Toney
I was looking through some information I received at a recent conference I attended and found some good advice that I thought I would share. This comes from a session that I didn’t attend, but the information in the power point we were given seemed to have some good advice about communication between parents and the school.
Before I dive into the information at hand let me explain my stance on parent/school relationships. They are very important if you want your child to succeed. I’ve often said that many people on both sides go into relationships and IEP meetings with an us-against-them mentality. This is where much of the tensions usually come from and that spirals out of control until neither side can negotiate what they really want, or should want, which is the best education for the child at hand.
Notice that I used the word relationship. This is exactly what it is. You have to have a working relationship with your child’s school or you will never make it. So many times I see things go bad and it usually ends with both sides resenting the things that happen in the meeting.
Here are a couple things I felt interesting and useful as I read through the advice.
The first thing that is suggested is that you introduce yourself to your child’s teacher(s) and school staff. This sounds like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised the number of parents who never step foot inside the classroom, or building for that matter, unless there is a problem. This goes double for all you fathers out there. I remember when we first started going to Konner’s IEP meetings and the team would tell me, “I’m so glad you’re here. We don’t see that many dads in here.” You have to be involved.
If you don’t already have an IEP set up at the beginning of the year you may want to visit the teacher. Send an email or message ahead of time to set up an appointment. While many teachers won’t mind if you just pop in they are very busy, they have 15 to 30 children after all, you probably wouldn’t want someone just dropping in on you at your work.
Let the teachers know that you are interested in hearing from them. Again, they are busy, but if you take the time to help them understand how much their input is about your child they will take the time to let you know how they are doing (see also information in past columns about communication notebooks).
Make sure that your child’s teacher and school have a “good” contact list. If they can’t get in touch with you they can’t let you know what’s going on with your child.
Don’t forget to let them know that you want the good stuff with the bad. Often times we are just waiting on that call that our child has set the fire alarm off again, or that he has pushed a kid off the playground equipment. We want the positive responses too.
One thing that I learned in my years as a journalist; there is more than one way to contact someone. There is email, cell phone, work phone, home phone, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, etc. I’ve also learned that some people have their favorite ways to communicate. Find out what your child’s teacher likes. This will be your primary pipeline. Don’t forget some like the old fashion face-to-face meetings.
That road goes both ways though. Let the teacher know what form of communication works best for you. Do you check your emails often? How often is your phone turned off? Be honest with them.
When you request information from a teacher give them time to respond. Again, they are busy people. Don’t pressure them. If you can give them adequate time it will help.
Find out when the teacher has their planning period. This will be very helpful for you and them. This is a time when they are not trying to wrangle dozens of rowdy children.
Attend other functions. Don’t just show up to your child’s school when an IEP is set, or when you have been called for something bad. Parent-Teacher meetings are great and will show that you care about your child’s academic well-being. If there are school assemblies or festivals and you can make it you should plan to attend. It’s good for the relationship with the school, but it is also good for your child to know you care.
Visit where your child learns. Go into the classroom. There may be things in there that can cause your child to be irritated that the teacher may not recognize. Remember that you know your child better than most.
Be open minded about what the teacher tells you. If you have to take some time to reflect on the situation and get back to them. They are telling you what they observe. You need to look at that and collaborate with them.
These are just a few suggestions that I have given based on what was presented in the power point (This information was provided by Rick Bishop and Marlene Webster). I hope they can help.
Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be an expert. I’m just a father who is trying to learn as much about Autism as I can to help my child. I hope that you all can learn from me, and I from you. I ask anyone who has questions or comments about something I have written, or autism, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will try to answer questions as I have time, and if I find it interesting enough I may touch on it in my column. You can also find all columns archived at blogspot.com.