Communicating with Your Child's School
It is important to have a positive relationship with your child’s teacher.
First: Understand that your role as a parent is unique.
No one knows and loves your child the way that you do. You are the expert on your child. And, while you may not have all the answers, you want your child to be successful in school and in life.
Your passion, as a parent, can help you communicate brilliantly. And, sometimes, it can overtake you.
The following steps can be particularly helpful to parents who are new to the special education process:
Steps to Success
Talk the talk
So, in a nutshell, when talking with staff and administrators at your child’s school, you’re likely to be successful if you can:
Advocating for your child
Importance of being an advocate
Being an effective advocate for your child is important to their success, both at school and in their community.
Advocacy involves working with the school and others to help ensure that your child will receive the support and services that may be needed. An advocate performs special functions including supporting and helping, speaking and pleading on behalf of others, and sharing information and fostering transparency.
Good special education services are intensive and expensive. Resources are limited.
If you have a child with special needs, you will likely need to utilize various types of information, skills and tools to get what your child needs.
One of the most-important advocates is the parent. Parents are natural advocates for their children! You know your child the best! You care the most!
Overview of advocacy skills
Effective advocacy includes several important components, including the following.
Advocates gather facts and organize documents to learn about a child’s disability and educational history.
Advocates use facts and independent documentation to resolve disagreements and disputes with the school.
Learn the rules of the game
Advocates educate themselves about their local school district. They know how decisions are made and by whom.
Advocates know about legal rights of both parents and children. They also know which words to avoid. For example, a child with a disability is entitled to an “appropriate” education, not the “best” education.
Plan and prepare
Advocates know that planning prevents problems. Advocates do not assume that school personnel will tell them about rights and responsibilities.
Preparing for meetings, creating agendas, writing objectives, and using meeting worksheets and follow-up letters to clarify problems are all tools in an advocate’s tool belt.
Keep written records
Because documents are often the keys to success, advocates keep written documentation. They know that if a statement is not written down, it “was not said”.
They make requests in writing and write polite follow-up letters to document events, discussions, and meetings.
Ask questions and listen to answers
Advocates are not afraid to ask questions.
When they ask questions, they listen carefully to answers. “Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How” are critical questions.
Advocates learn to define and describe problems from all angles.
They use their knowledge of interests, fears, and positions to develop strategies. They do not waste valuable time and energy looking for people to blame.
Advocates know that parents negotiate with schools for special education services.
As negotiators, advocates discuss issues and make offers or proposals. They seek “win-win” solutions that will satisfy parents and schools.
Reach out for help as needed
As part of a comprehensive preparation plan, advocates reach out for assistance when needed. If you have questions before a critical meeting or just want to leverage our knowledgeable resources, please feel free to contact one of ECAC's parent educators
Remember: Always ask for an explanation of anything that you do not understand.
Questions parents can ask
A collaboration on reading improvement and dyslexia between ECAC and NCDPI
The following documents have been developed in collaboration between the Exceptional Children’s Assistance Center (ECAC) and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI). They provide questions that parents can ask about reading improvement and dyslexia.
Whether attending a parent/teacher conference, participating in writing the IEP (Individualized Education Program), or working with your child at home, use the questions that relate to your child to gather the information you need.
If your child struggles with reading and you suspect dyslexia, you need specific information about how you can support your child’s learning. You can use the space provided in this document to write down the answers to these important questions.