As speech pathologists we are big believers in establishing clear communication channels across all aspects of a child’s life. But it can be challenging at times to forge positive communication channels with external parties like your child’s teacher.
Children with special needs including those with speech and language delays, need ongoing support to not only feel a part of the school environment, but to thrive and learn. Without positive communication channels you may struggle to understand what is happening in the school environment, and your child’s teacher may miss out on specific information that can support them in their learning and development.
Within this article, I will break down the key steps to establishing positive communication channels with your child’s teacher and help you understand why this is so important for your child’s success at school.
Steps in Establishing Positive Communication Channels
As a parent, you obviously know your child best. You understand what motivates them, what they like, what they dislike, and what they need to successfully communicate their own needs and feel included. It is because of this, that the parent-teacher relationship is so important when it comes to supporting your child at school. And of course, all good relationships are based on clear communication. The following steps will help you forge a good relationship with your child’s teacher and establish communication channels that work for all involved.
Step 1. Communicate Early and Often
Introducing yourself to your child’s teacher early in the school year is a great way to start cultivating a good parent-teacher relationship. Try and arrange a meeting as early as possible with your child’s teacher. The aim of this meeting would be to let them know you are willing to work together in ensuring that your child has a successful school year. Be open to their ideas and be willing to share information about your child’s strengths, abilities, interests, and anything else that may help with lesson planning.
One of the most important parts of early communication and teacher meetings is to establish support for how your child communicates. For example, if they require visuals, sign language or an AAC device, you need to ensure that there are teachers, support staff and possibly other students who understand and use these within the school environment. But remember, be realistic with your expectations and flexible with what the school can offer.
Step 2. Work Out the Best Way to Communicate
We all have preferred means of communicating. You might like to talk things out over the phone, or perhaps email is the way you work, but it might not work for you child’s teacher. Some teachers may already have communication systems in place like online notifications. Ask your child’s teacher what works for them – would they prefer regular emails or text messages, perhaps a brief meeting each week is best. And if you find the selected communication channel is not working, speak up. After all, communication only works if it is a two-way street.
Step 3. Be Clear and Conscious in Your Communication
When communicating with your child’s teacher, think about the information that they really need to know.
They don’t need a six-page document detailing every aspect of your child’s day. Most teachers wouldn’t have time to read this, particularly when considering there are up to 30 other children in their class.
Provide them with concise, specific information that is helpful to their teaching. You could complete a basic student profile if this is provided or develop a simple one-page document that highlights your child’s strengths and interests, and offers basic information on some of the strategies you use at home or in therapy sessions.
When it comes to regular updates, keep it short and simple. For example, you might want to advise that your child had a good night sleep. Instead of providing full details of your child’s bedtime routine, you could say; “My child slept through the night and is well rested today”. This will help the teacher to know that your child is in a good position to be challenged a little more that day.
Step 4. Pay Attention to the Positives
No one likes to constantly be hit with challenges, so it is important to acknowledge the good things your child’s teacher and school does to support their learning. This could be a heart-felt thank you for their time and effort put into communicating with you on a regular basis. Or even an acknowledgement of the improvements you have seen thanks to the teacher’s strategies in the classroom. You should also let the teacher know that you would like to hear the positives too.
Step 5. Be Ready to Make Changes if Required
When things aren’t working, despite the efforts of all involved, it can be hard to communicate the need for change. Teachers may be hesitant to discuss ongoing challenges, and you may find it hard to hear or contemplate that change is required. But honesty is a big part of clear communication, and a big part of being an effective advocate for your child.
If you find that a certain strategy isn’t working, the best thing to do is try and fix it quickly. Communicate your concerns via the channels you have established and assess the best way forward. You may have to make some changes, but in the end, your child will only benefit from your ongoing efforts.
There is no doubt that entering a new school environment or classroom is daunting for both you and your child. There are many unknowns and new territories to navigate, but with positive communication channels, you can establish a good relationship with your child’s teacher. This relationship will be mutually beneficial, but more importantly, it will lead to better outcomes for your child.