Home to school communication: Keep a positive tone
This may seem self-evident, but please do try to stay positive in anything you write to the school. Start off your school year by introducing your child and yourself, and by expressing your appreciation for the work your child’s resource team does. Offer your help, or if you like you can refer the new staff to someone else (your child’s doctor or speech therapist, staff at the school who worked with your child in the past, the resource team coordinator) who might be a source of assistance.
If you ever find you need to express a concern or make a complaint, think twice about whether you want to write it in the communication book. If it’s a major issue, you might want to write a formal letter to the appropriate staff member or make an appointment for a face to face meeting.
If you do feel the communication book is the appropriate medium to use – as when you feel the assigned homework is too difficult or too easy – try to state your point in the affirmative. “We feel Johnny could benefit from a little extra challenge in his math homework, as he is finishing it in lightning speed,” will get better results than, “We haven’t been pleased with Johnny’s homework this week.” It is more specific about what kind of homework your special needs child could be doing (more challenging math) and it states a reason for the request (Johnny is finishing the homework very quickly, and you believe it is because assignments so far have been too easy.) The tone of the first statement sets it up as positive feedback on your child’s academic progress, and invites collaboration. This is always more welcome than a complaint.
Home to school communication: Be consistent
If you want to receive daily feedback from your child’s teacher or integration aide, it is important that you also write them daily. If your special needs child is able to discuss his school day with you and show you his work, you may decide that less frequent communication is sufficient. I would recommend you write and expect a reply at least once a week, however. It is too easy to forget about a communication book or to lose track of it, if it is not used each week.
Being consistent means more than just writing each day. It also means following up if you need to, and sticking to an agreed upon set of expectations as much as possible. If you ask about supervision for the next field trip, the upcoming IEP meeting or the lost gym uniform, remember to follow up on it if you don’t get an answer in a reasonable period of time. Similarly, if the school is waiting for you to sign consent forms, to set up an appointment or to send materials to school try to do so as quickly as you can. If it might be a while, it’s best to drop a quick line in the communication book.
Home to school communication: Be proactive
When you are a special needs parent, one of your most important jobs is to advocate for your child. Think ahead, and try to address potential issues before they arise. Offer assistance before it is needed. Suggest possible solutions when problems do occur. If you have specific expectations for your child’s school term or year, communicate them to the school. If you have had difficulties in the past, it is a good idea to work on resolving them before they come up again. Don’t be afraid to ask your child’s teacher or aide to look ahead a bit. They may not have the answers to your questions right away, but that shouldn’t stop you from asking, “What will we do when….?”
Home to school communication: Be understanding
Try to keep in mind that a lot of teachers and even resource staff don’t have all the specialized training they would like to have. They may not be receiving the support or resources they need to do the very best job for your child. They may not be given any planning time during which to find answers to your questions, select classwork or homework for your child, or even write in his communication book.
For years, our son’s aides have had to either give up their break time, or get planning and communication done while they supervise him. He’s a very active child, and some days I don’t know how they manage! They shouldn’t have to, but this is the reality of public school today. We do our best to help however we can, and we are fortunate that they somehow find enough hours in the day to get everything done.