Well, summer vacation has come to an end and school is back in. This time of year is particularly stressful for parents of children with special needs.
Back to school is a big transition; there are so many unknowns. Who will be your child’s teacher this year? How understanding will they be of your child’s needs? How will their teaching style work for your child’s learning style?
These are all really valid worries for parent’s to have.
Our kids have to work extra hard to fit into a mainstream classroom and may need significant accommodations made to allow them to learn. All kids should receive any accommodation they need — that’s what inclusion is all about.
I really, strongly support inclusion for everyone. I have experienced first hand my son missing out and being discriminated against because of his diagnosis and that’s not okay. But what I want to talk about is maintaining a positive relationship with the school and how parent’s need to stop blaming the teacher every time something goes wrong.
The Dreaded Note Home
Not everyone will agree with me on this topic and that’s okay. Everyone’s situation is unique but there’s a particular scenario I see a lot. Here it is:
The parent has a note sent home from child’s teacher, generally describing the behavior they witnessed in the classroom that day.
The behaviors are things that children with special needs commonly struggle with — staying seated, focusing, following instructions, etc.
The parent becomes angry and deems the teacher incompetent and unfit to teach their child. Then thanks to social media, hundreds of other parents can join in and also bash the teacher based off of a single note.
These are just some examples of comments I have read on social media about teachers:
“Some teachers really annoy me. They have no understanding of ADHD”
“I thought Teachers are supposed to be in it for the love of teaching.. guess not”
“I got these notes all the time and SHE made my son fail third grade”
“They can NOT bully your kid, but they WILL TRY”
“Send a note back saying: yep .. that’s ADHD”
“Who let her teach at this school? … she can’t recognize and adjust? …. don’t make your child endure the school year with this teacher.”
“Get your son moved to a new class so these stupid notes stop and he can be taught by someone qualified”
The note from the teacher just basically read that the child was having trouble remaining seated and completing classwork. Now a mob of mothers on social media believes she isn’t qualified for her job.
We need to stop blaming and bashing teachers.
Just because a teacher sent a note home does not mean they aren’t aware that these are common behaviors for children with special needs. It does not mean they don’t understand, or that they want the parent to punish the child, or that they are bullying your child.
Most of the time, this is the teacher attempting to create an open line of communication.
For your child to be successful in school, you must work with the teacher has a team. Otherwise, you set your child up to fail. If you never had a note sent home – you would have absolutely no idea what your child was struggling with, and no chance to take that information and get accommodations in place for them.
You could reply to that note and say “Yep, sounds like ADHD .. get with the program biotch” … Or, you could reply with “Thanks for letting me know. He struggles with staying seated at home too. When it’s a good time could you please give me a call so we can talk together about a solution, he may need some planned movement breaks.”
See, it’s not so hard.
How To Have A Positive Relationship With The School
I know there are times you will be absolutely frustrated with the school. I’ve been in those shoes. I’ve been the angry mom storming down the hall to pick up my son and I have made the condescending remark to the teacher.
There. Is. No. Point.
It strains the parent-teacher relationship, closes up communication and overall makes everything worse.
Stop Assuming They Are Judging You
The first thing you need to do is stop assuming a teacher is judging you or your child simply for bringing inappropriate or challenging behavior to your attention.
Trust me, they’ve seen it all before, and they’ve probably seen worse. If you get a note or a phone call home, you should initially assume nothing more than that the teacher wants to make you aware and work with you to find a solution.
Get Your Child’s Point Of View
If your child is old enough, talk to them about school to get their point of view. Putting yourself in your child’s shoes, as well as in the teacher’s shoes can help you understand both sides of the situation.
For example, my son has trouble completing his work and will, at times simply refuse to do his work at all and leave his seat. I can understand that this is challenging for the teacher because she does have over 20 other kids to teach.
But, an important question to ask is: why is my son refusing to work? Is it just because he’s bad? No. And his teacher doesn’t think that either.
- Choose a good time to talk to your child about school.
- Ask them what they like about school and think they are good at, and what they dislike about school
- After hearing how they’re feeling at school you can direct the talk towards the particular issues they’re having.
So my son and I talked about him not doing class work. He said “I like my teacher but I don’t like work” and I said “I know, it isn’t always fun especially when we don’t get a choice in the work we have to do. What part of the work do you like the least?” and he said “It’s too easy. I don’t know why it takes everyone so long and I don’t even need to think about it.”
And the issues will be different for everyone. Some common problems, aside from being bored, could be that
- the work is too difficult.
- the child is disorganized
- the child has receptive language issues and did not understand the task
- the child doesn’t have the ability to work through the task from start to finish
- External factors like sensory issues are interfering. Are the lights too bright? too much noise? A strong smell?
- Internal factors are interfering. Is the child anxious? Hungry? Tired?
Understanding your child’s strengths and weaknesses can really provide insight to the teacher for finding solutions.
Plan What You’re Going To Say To The Teacher
It can be hard to talk to teachers sometimes, especially if you’re feeling frustrated with them — but it is the best way to find solutions.
As you plan what to say, think about some positive things about the teacher, and the classroom. Keep in mind that the teacher is very busy and assume they have your child’s best interests in mind.
Also keep in mind some things your child does really well at school and some things they need to work on, too. This will be helpful for the conversation also.
Start The Conversation Positively
When you begin the conversation with your child’s teacher, always start by saying something positive about the teacher and their class. It will show them you acknowledge all of the hard work they do and set the tone for the conversation.
For example: “First of all, I really appreciate that you’re trying to learn what my child’s triggers are” … or “My child has really taken a love in reading since starting in your class”
Then, talk about ways they can encourage your child to behave at school. Share what works at home. Create some sort of daily line of communication between yourself and the teacher. It can be used to let you know how the school day went.
It’s great to use the line of communication to inform the teacher of any special circumstances that may put extra pressure on your child, making the school day more difficult that usual. For example, if my son doesn’t sleep well the night before, or has a meltdown in the morning before school, I always let the teacher know so they can be conscientious of these things at school too.
And to be completely honest, at this point in time — the teacher and I just text each other. We are in frequent communication, always keeping each other in the loop and always talking about ways to improve my son’s success at school.
This is all relevant even if your child has an IEP in place. As your child gets older and changes, programs will need to evolve to remain relevant and meet their current needs so the conversation should never stop.
When you stop blaming teachers, keep the relationship positive, maintain an open line of conversation, and work together with the school, as a team, you will ensure your child’s success in school.