Parents and guardians play a very important role in the instruction of students with disabilities. Many times there are conflicts that arise between special education teachers, schools, and parents that could be avoided if clear communication were established early in the school year.
Parents also have vital information about their children that can support teachers in making the best decisions about the instruction of the students that they teach. Because of this, it is important that we establish a positive and open communication system with our parents.
Today we are going to look at 7 tips that can support special education teachers when working with parents.
Introduce Yourself Early
It is important to introduce yourself to the parent at the beginning of the year. I find that the best way to do this is either in person or via the phone. This demonstrates a more genuine expression of interest in the parent and student than the standard letter home.
If you have 15 students in your class or on caseload, it is well worth the time and effort to spend the first week or two of school calling each parent and giving them an overview of how you will support their child in the coming months.
You can start out with introducing yourself, telling a bit about your background, and asking about how they think you can best support their child in being successful. This simple conversation demonstrates that you are on their side and are focused on helping their child succeed.
Send an Introductory Letter with Your Contact Information
To follow-up with your initial phone call and to catch parents who you may not have been able to get in touch with, you can follow-up with an introductory letter home. You can include the same details that you would include in the phone call, but also providing your contact information in writing can be helpful for parents.
Establish Electronic Communication
A great way to keep parents in the loop regarding their child’s progress is to email them on a regular basis. Many teachers find success in keeping the parents of their entire class or caseload in-the-know by sending out a weekly email blast or a newsletter.
Most people check their emails at least once per day and using this method cuts down on the likelihood that your students will misplace a note or communication log. By incorporating a weekly or bi-weekly newsletter you can ensure that your parents are all on the same page about homework assignments, major projects, school or class events, and any areas in which they can support at home.
Communication Logs with Signatures
Many classroom teachers have some kind of classwide paper-based communication for their entire class. This quickly captures information regarding behavior, homework, nightly reading, etc.
Parents are then asked to sign off each night that they have read the daily communication. By having this system for your entire class, then it does not single out students who may have this communication actually outlined in their IEP for academics or behavior.
If you are a resource teacher, then you can collaborate with your general education teacher to incorporate some of the information into the communication system that is used within their classroom.
Using this method also gives parents a way to write a quick note back if they have any concerns, questions, or information that they want to share with the teacher. By having a classwide system for communication, you can catch many minor issues prior them becoming huge concerns.
Contact Parents about their Children’s Success
Many times we find the time to reach out when there is a concern about a student and don’t spend enough time reaching out to celebrate the wins. Parents and students both don’t respond well to only hearing about the the things that need to improved upon in the classroom. Try making a parent and student’s day with a quick celebration call!
Never Wait Until the IEP Meeting to Initiate Contact
One of the biggest mistakes that a special education teacher or case manager can make is waiting until a student has an IEP meeting to initiate contact with a parent. At this point, if the parent has any concerns around the instruction that the student has received over the past year, the teacher has lost any chance at being looked at as an ally and instead is viewed as a stranger and sometimes even an adversary.
Flag Parents that You are Unable to Reach
If a parent is difficult to get ahold of, flag this for administration, your school social worker, or your guidance counselor. They should be able to assist you with initiating contact. Showing that you are putting this effort forward also reflects highly on you as a member of your school community.
Parents play a huge role in supporting students with disabilities. If you have any parents that you have not had a chance to have a phone call or face-to-face meeting yet, I want to challenge you to make an attempt within the next week. If you are successful, chances are that it will make things much easier down the road.
By establishing and maintaining a method of communication with parents, special education teachers can spend their time concentrating on instructing students with disabilities and spend less time focusing on addressing concerns.
How have your experiences been when it comes to communicating with parents? Share your experiences in the comments or over at our Facebook Group.