For many parents, spring break is approaching an end and it’s time to get your child back in the swing of waking up early and having structure to their day.
For the parent of a special needs child, this can seem difficult, since many have a hard time with transitions and change.
That’s why it’s important to be advocates for your child with special needs.
When parents send their child back to school, they might have apprehensions about how the school will support their child in an inclusive setting. Parent may also feel:
- Anxious about their child’s behaviors at school
- Worried that any gains achieved at home won’t be maintained at school
- Upset that their voice isn’t heard when speaking to the principal, teacher, special education teacher or SEA (special education assistant) about their child’s needs
If you are a parent with a child fortunate enough to have an SEA in an inclusive classroom, then it’s important to effectively work together in order to help your child succeed in school.
Here are 4 tips you can do today to get your child’s SEA on your side.
1. Develop A Friendly Relationship With Your Child’s SEA
Although this may seem difficult for some parents, it’s best to have a friendly relationship with your child’s SEA if you want your child to benefit from the support. Some parents are not wanting to listen to the SEA only because the SEA doesn’t want to listen to the parents.
Some SEAs don’t value the parents’ input when it comes to helping their child with special needs. When this happens, parents are reluctant to work together, and this only hurts their child’s chances of receiving quality and individualized support.
After having spring break, you may want to work on being cordial, attentive and helpful to the SEA, rather than demanding, disregarding and unhelpful. SEAs will typically be more open to working together with you throughout the school year if the relationship is friendly.
2. Use Daily Communication Notes
As parents, you can provide important information about your child to the SEA that will impact how and what type of support will be given to your child that day.
Many SEAs find it helpful if they knew whether or not:
- The child had a difficult night
- The child had a difficult morning
- The child was interested in a certain activity, TV show, game etc…
- The child didn’t eat breakfast
Knowing setting events prior to the child coming to school helps an SEA know how to modify his or her support for the child.
For example, if a SEA read in the daily communication notes that the child woke up frequently in the night, they would knew it might not be best to place too many demands on them in the morning. They would wait until after recess once the child had run around to place any demands.
It’s also beneficial to communicate any noteworthy events to the parents as this could help them at home if the child is in therapy or has extra curricular events.
Set Up a Data Tracking System That Incorporates Your Child’s IEP Goals
Often, SEAs track data for disruptive behaviors throughout the day. This may not be as effective because it didn’t track any progress the child made in academics and socialization.
What’s more effective is tracking specific IEP, or individualized education plan, goals daily. This allows the SEA to chart specific progress that is directly related to the IEP. It also serves as concrete data during IEP reviews and helps form new IEP goals once current goals are met.
Although SEAs often make data sheets, parents are encouraged to make their own and present them to the teacher or special education teacher for review.
The IEP data sheet has the following information:
- IEP goal (ex: Child will look and say “hi” to 3 peers daily)
- Prompting level that was required to achieve the IEP goal (Full physical prompt to raise hand 2x)
- Comments (Child raises hand on own with Sara only)
- Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence (ABC) data for disruptive behaviors
Provide A “Get To Know My Child” Cheat Sheet
When a child first enters the school system, everything is new to them. Similarly, the child is new to the teacher and SEA. To help ease this transition, having an information sheet about your child can benefit how the SEA will support your child. This also helps any future substitute SEAs get a snapshot of your child.
Here are some things to include in the “Getting to Know My Child” sheet:
- Likes and dislikes
- Favorite subjects
- People they know (These are people who are at school. For example, the librarian could be the child’s neighbor)
- Personality traits
- Disruptive behaviors (the SEA may have to add how they are managed at school, as oppose to home)
We hope these tips help you build a collaborative relationship with your child’s SEA. Let us know if you have any other tips to offer in the comments.