“My child has special needs.” That phrase can be uttered with either a sigh or confidence.
Which one depends upon the spirit with which the parent greets the teacher. As an educator and administrator, I love to tell our parents that “every child has special needs.” It’s our job as educators to know the special needs and to do our professional best to meet these needs in every special needs student.
It helps significantly for the parent of a special needs student to share as much information about their child as possible with the teacher before school begins. Sometimes the parent feels that there will be a stigma attached to the child if information concerning the special need is shared ahead of time. How sad this is for the child! Consider the analogy of the school as a hospital and teacher as the doctor. The more information that the teacher can gather ahead of time in regard to the individual special needs student, the clearer and more focused the instructions and plan can be on the path to student progress. Would you deny your child glasses if he was found to have a vision problem? What if he were hard of hearing? Wouldn’t you want the teacher to know this information so he or she can strategically place the child for optimal success in the classroom? If the school or teacher doesn’t have a strategy to meet the parent before school starts, ask for an individual appointment to share this important information with the teacher. Parents should never feel that they are bothering the teacher by standing up for what their child needs.
Another important decision to make clear to the teacher is how you as a team would like to communicate. Do you prefer a phone call or an email? Do you want to know only when real difficulties are being experienced or do you desire weekly updates? This information is invaluable to the teacher so she can best meet the parent’s expectation and partner toward educational goals. The stronger the partnership between the parent and the teacher, the quicker a negative behavior will be extinguished or double the joy of a successful assignment!
When trust is established between the parent and the teacher, any information can be received in a constructive manner. It’s never an issue to convey forward progress. Everyone likes to hear good things. When difficult issues surface, the teacher and the parent have to be honest with the facts and with their opinions. Should communication between the parent and teacher break down, invite the school administrator to partner in order to re-establish positive communication. The teacher needs to take the lead as the professional in the dissemination of classroom information. The parent needs to take the lead as the advocate for their child and to communicate in a respectful manner with the teacher.
Communication needs to be collaborative! Without an understanding between the parent of a special needs student and their teacher, assumptions and misunderstandings can occur. The relationship needs to begin positively from the start to sustain during the times when information is difficult. “My child is special,” can be a very positive statement.