This article by Meredith Warshaw offers parents advice on how to share assessment results for handling their children’s special needs with schools.
Author: Warshaw, M.
Year: August 2004
Once you have assessment results, you need to figure out the best way to share information for handling your child’s special needs with people at your child’s school. It is important to do this in a way that maximizes the effectiveness of your communication.
Too often, I hear parents complain that they gave their child’s teacher a book or a list of websites, but the teacher never found time to read it. This is understandable – most elementary school teachers have 20 to 30 children to take care of, and teachers in the older grades deal with many times that number. Even the most caring, well-intentioned teacher will have trouble finding time to read books for several kids or remembering to check websites at the end of a long school day. Your job is to make it easy for the teacher to get the most important information. I suggest the following steps:
- Prepare a short summary page listing the most important points in the articles and referencing the page numbers where they can be found.
- Find the shortest articles that you feel provide the most crucial information.
- Choose articles from experts in the field or sources that are known and respected in the educational community. Limit yourself to as few articles as possible – no more than 2 to 3.
- Use a colored highlighter pen on the most important points in each article.
- Present the articles in order of importance.
When explaining why this information is important, be sure to emphasize that you are sharing it in order for your child to get an appropriate education. Do not say that this will lead to the best education – the legal requirement is that children get FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education).
Beth Davis-Wellington, Esq., M.P.H. of Kidslaw: Adoption, Education & Health Care Advocacy, says:
I advise parents to send a “back to school letter” to each of their child’s teachers, telling the teacher about their child’s strengths and areas of concern and attaching the IEP (or 504 plan). I avoid writing that “Scott has AD/HD,” and say instead that Scott is easily distracted and has trouble staying on task (or whatever the actual problem is).
I also add “Scott is an excellent writer, especially of scripts, and enjoys acting,” or something like that, as appropriate. I also try to individually address the letters – even if I type in “Dear” and write in the teacher’s name when I get to the school.
Another recommendation is to set up a meeting with all of the child’s teachers prior to school (if possible) or shortly after school starts. That way the parent can have a first meeting before there is a problem and also verify the teachers’ preferred method of contact.
Taking steps to communicate clearly and concisely with school staff increases the likelihood that your information will be read and acted on. It also helps establish a relationship of cooperation and collaboration with school staff and gets the school year off to a good start.
Meredith Warshaw, M.S.S., M.A., is a special needs educational advisor, writer, lecturer, and contributing editor for 2e Newsletter. She may be reached for comment and response to this column at MW@2eNewsletter.com.