By Janelle Espling

A version of this article was originally published on Janelle Espling’s blog.

Since your child has started getting services, you have probably had your fair share of educators come into your life, and sometimes into your home.  In Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings and IFSP meetings, we often say that we work together as a team to help your child.  However, many times there is a disparity between the parent and the teacher.  Working with your child’s teacher will help them reach their maximum potential.  The biggest tip I can give you is that you need to communicate.  Communicate often!  Communicate at least weekly or even daily.

Here are 10 Ways To Build A Partnership With Your Child’s Special Education Teacher

  1. Communicate the highs and lows. If your child had a rough night, tell your teacher.  This has the possibility of impacting their day at school. If they had a great weekend, tell the teacher.  You could even send pictures to the teacher of fun things that happened over the weekend so your child could share their experience at school.
  2. Inform your teacher of things that your child loves and hates. For example, if Finding Nemo scares your child, let the teacher know so she won’t use a Nemo sticker as a reward. The teacher needs to know what your child has adverse reactions to. If your child loves Spongebob, your teacher can use that  in the classroom to make rewards meaningful, and lessons engaging.
  3. Discuss new skills and new behaviors. When your child has a new skill, jot down a note for your teacher.  Sometimes students will not generalize skills from one environment to another.  Therefore, it is important to maintain a flow of communication.  When you see new behaviors at home, you may also want to tell the teacher to see if your child is doing these behaviors at school as well. Keep the dialogue open to work cohesively together as a team.
  4. Say thank you. Teaching is a joy for me!  The best teacher is still human. It means the world to know that the effort I make is noticed and appreciated.  I don’t teach for a thank you.  I teach because I love kids and God has called me to teach.  But a thank you sure does lift my spirit on a tough day.
  5. Offer to help. Many teachers spend their own money on their classroom supplies.  If you can help in any way, it will be much appreciated.  It doesn’t have to be much- a box of Lysol wipes, holiday stickers from the dollar store, etc.  If you have some extra time, ask your teacher if she has crafts to be assembled or packets to staple. If you have means to help, you will BLESS the socks off your teacher.
  6. Ask for specific ways you can help your child academically. If you are struggling with a particular academic task at home, call the teacher or write a note to try and make a plan together.  Often times teachers use specific methods to teaching a new skill.  Your teacher can guide you through these methods.
  7. Ask if there are new skills they are doing at school. Many students will not naturally generalize skills from school to home (and vise versa). This means that they may do certain skills in one environment but do not show that ability in another environment.  You might be amazed at how independent your child is at school, that if given an opportunity and guidance, could do the same things at home.
  8. Ask if there are rewards your child will work for at school. Many times teachers use a variety of rewards- this could be fruit snacks, playing with trains, or iPad time.  If it works at school, you could also use similar rewards at home. You can use these tangible items or activities to reward positive behavior.
  9. Ask how you can enhance your child’s language skills at home. If your child uses a device at school, ask if you can use it at home.  Then make sure you use it.  If your child is using pictures at school, incorporate using pictures at home.  You can even have siblings use pictures or signs to communicate, to model effective use of these communication methods.  If your child is working on new vocabulary words, or specific articulation exercises, work on these things at home as well. The more exposures, the better.
  10. Ask how to build social skills. A school environment is very different than a home environment.  Your child is likely to have different types of social interactions at school than home.  Your educator may be working on board games and learning the concept of losing.  Your child might be learning how to ask a friend to play with them.  Specifically ask how you can build social skills at home.

These tips are very simple, but based on my experience, and the experiences of many of colleagues, parents that use these tips are rare.  One last word of advice, if your teacher writes notes, initial or comment so that he/she knows you read the note.  The teacher will probably be more inclined to write notes if I know the parents are reading.So send emails, write notes, be kind, and consider your child’s educator as someone on your team to help your child.  I believe with all my heart that God specifically places people into our lives with intention, not by fate or by chance.  Take advantage of the expertise of the people that love and support your child.  We are all in this together.  When educators and parents work together to support the child, we can effectively support the child and make a maximum impact.

How do you build a partnership with your child’s teacher? Share with us your thoughts in the comments section below!

Photo Credit:  Aidan Jones

janelle esplingJanelle Espling is passionate about serving children with special needs and providing support for their families. As a special education teacher for children with moderate to severe disabilities, bringing hope and transformation has been her life mission for more than a decade.
Janelle’s message of hope has touched the hearts of audiences around the world as a dynamic and versatile keynote speaker and workshop presenter. Janelle is the Author of the book, “Autism is not the End: A Christian Family Survival Guide for Autism.” Currently, she serves on staff at Relevant Church in Riverside, California, alongside her husband, Scott.