The hot, hot laid-back days of summer have passed, and we’re back to the hustle and bustle of the school year. And so it begins: schedules, packing lunches and backpacks, homework, monitoring IEP goals, ensuring all therapies are received, but most importantly that our child’s educational team is continually “in the know” about our child. That can sometimes be a task in itself. Let’s face it; our children were not born with a handbook. We grow with them, but we are a constant. So how do we share all that we’ve learned — and continue to learn — with the transient, yet critical, teachers and therapists?
Some families find it useful to put together a “Getting to Know Me” booklet for their child. This doesn’t have to be a complex project. It can be a simple accumulation of things your child likes or dislikes including activities and foods, what motivates them, what scares them, how they communicate, and so on.
A brief summary and list of medical issues/concerns should be included. There is a better chance of the teaching team reading and retaining the information about your child if it is concise, easy to read and well organized. The old adage “less is more” is true in this case.
Communication is the key to success. It is important to establish this precedent early. Some schools and teachers have specific communication policies that govern consistent open communication between parents and staff throughout the year. In the absence of such policies, we still need to make communication our top priority. It is most beneficial to make this process as simple as possible. It is certainly not something that should seem like a burden or an additional chore.
There are several simple yet effective methods that should keep everyone current on the daily details of the student’s day. For instance, a simple spiral or composition notebook, that a child carries back and forth to school daily, is a frequently used home-to-school communication tool. The notebook contains entries made by teachers and parents regarding the child’s activities. Additionally, you will have a written record you can use for future reference.
In today’s age of technology, email is another very effective method. Most teachers are comfortable sharing their email address because it affords the opportunity to address questions, concerns, etc., once the student’s day is over. Another simple-yet-effective method is a communication chart. This is something that can be developed by the teacher or parent and printed out each day. It would list particular areas of activity and can provide checkboxes to be able to report daily happenings quickly. This method can be particularly useful in certain circumstances, such as when certain medical criterion needs to be documented on a daily basis.
Searching the Web is an excellent way to explore additional communication methods. Be creative if you find a better technique or a combination of techniques that works best for the team. The emphasis should be placed not on method but the results. As long as the team stays up to date and informed of changes or challenges, the goal has been accomplished.
Being a valuable partner in your child’s educational team doesn’t end when you leave the IEP meeting. It is important to always work to have respectful ongoing communication so your child’s needs are met.
Submit your advocacy questions to Trisomy21@email.chop.edu. This column is not intended to take the place of a formal legal or medical consult.