Several parents have shared their daunting stories of having to meet with their child’s new teacher every year in an attempt to help them better understand their child’s disabilities. Given that teachers have a lot to address at the beginning of the school year it is more critical to establish a well-balanced relationship with your child’s teacher. First and foremost fostering a mutually respectable relationship goes a long way in having a teacher that advocates for your child. A few simple tips in creating a future level playing field for your child at the beginning of the school year:
- Create a balanced relationship with your child’s new teacher by establishing an open dialogue that fosters a respectable relationship. Having the teacher see you as a person who respects his/her job is critical. Be sure to demonstrate that you understand that he/she is someone who cares not only about your child’s IEP services but is critical in getting your child’s needs met in the classroom beyond what is written down on the IEP. Keep in mind that you will have a 30 day placement meeting and also quarterly IEP report.
- Open communication is key! Be open and willing to listen to what the teacher has to say about your child without passing judgment. It could be he/she is looking at your child with a new insight. When you are “open”, you are willing to talk about things in different ways and approach ideas and suggestions differently. It means you are allowing yourself to trust another person to have a different perspective about your child.
- Don’t play the Blame Game – nobody wins! Stay away from referencing past awful incidents with a previous teacher or an IEP team member as it puts the new teacher on hyper alert.
- Access the communication format – don’t wait until you have a problem to relay information. A teacher always has an acceptable way to communicate with parents. Using that format shows that you respect the teacher. Through the preferred format you can share your child’s accommodations, behavior monitoring plan, success, etc.
Consider this your preIEP monitoring and data collection system, but please keep in mind that the teacher probably also has other parents needing access to him/her. You know you have won when you have a two-way interaction of exchanging ideas and developing new insights into ways to help your child learn in the new environment. Remember it takes time for teachers to get to know their students, and genuine insight probably will not occur in the first month.
Disclaimer: I am not an IEP expert!
Uduak (Udie) Osom holds a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Speech and Language Pathology from San Jose State University. Udie has served students of all ability levels from preschool through grade 12, for over 20 years. She is very passionate about neuro-developmental disabilities and social-cognitive disabilities. She is the owner/director of Innovative Therapy Services, a pediatric speech, language and social skills clinic in Santa Clara, CA. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.