Babble is partnering with PACER Center to help readers better understand and navigate the needs of young children. This month, we’re talking about setting children with special needs up for success, by meeting with their teacher at the start of the school year.
Making a positive, early connection with your child’s teacher is one of the most important things you can do at the start of a school year — especially if your child has special needs. Being proactive about communicating early on won’t just make parent-teacher conferences go more smoothly; it will also prevent any future misunderstandings that might occur.
According to Renelle Nelson, M.A., who heads up the Children’s Mental Health and Emotional or Behavioral Disorders Program at PACER Center, parents should take the lead on setting up a meeting with their child’s teacher as soon as possible.
“An early meeting can focus on your child’s strengths and needs, as well as help the teacher identify positive ways to support your child,” says Nelson. “By meeting with the teacher, you can ensure that she understands what’s most important to know about your child.”
Once you sit down with the teacher, start the conversation off with something positive, such as repeating something that your son or daughter likes about being in the class. Then try sharing some information that will help the teacher when working with your child.
This information can include how your child likes to be talked to. Do they have concerns when voices are raised? What about physical contact? Some children don’t like to be touched in any way; others respond to a gentle touch on the shoulder. If these are issues for your child, let the teacher know what your child prefers.
Most importantly, provide the teacher with tips on how best to instruct and support your child. Is your child sensitive to being singled out? Does he or she need specific reminders, such as “Please put your pencil and paper away”? If positive reinforcement works wonders with your child, let the teacher know.
At the end of the meeting, set up a plan for how to stay in touch with the teacher. Does she prefer emails, texts, or phone calls? How will she let you know how things are going, and what’s the best way for you to communicate concerns?
Now that you’ve connected with your child’s teacher, continue to build the relationship. It’s crucial to your child’s success, and will help ensure that the rest of the school year goes as smoothly as possible.
Want to learn more about children’s mental health? Visit PACER’s Children’s Mental Health and Emotional or Behavioral Disorders Project.