Best Ways Special Needs Parents and Teachers Can Create a Dialogue
No matter if you consider yourself aggressive, assertive, or the least confrontational person on the planet Earth, when it comes to our children, most of us have a special level of emotional intensity and defensiveness when it comes to defending their well-being. This can be magnified if we believe our children are not as capable as others of defending themselves or advocating for their needs and wants.
The issue of advocating for your child and their needs is often played out in the forum of public education. Aside from parenting and family; perhaps no greater a factor fosters opportunity for success or failure for our children than that of the educational system.
As these stakes are so high, communication and understanding are paramount among all parties. Most vitally that of the educator and the parent. Yet, this dialogue can sometimes get bogged down, become clouded or (at worst) become confrontational.
As Stephen Covey said in the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “Seek first to understand, and then be understood.” Understanding among us all can only benefit our child’s education and the conversations that play a pivotal role in this area.
What parents want educators to know:
We are doing the best we can:
It is easy to play “armchair quarterback” and tell a parent what they should do, how to do it, and what they need. It is a far different avenue to actually apply what someone is suggesting and do it all the time.
Emotions are not always logical:
When it comes to our children, the feelings of emotions bubble to the surface. This does not always mean that decisions are solely based on logic. There is a lot of emotion, love, concern and caring that are also mixed into the ingredients that are the basis for my educational choices for my son or daughter.
My child is special to me:
Understand that my child is special to me. As an educator you advocate and work with many students and do so as best you can. My child(ren) is my primary concern. The education of other children is important, but my primary focus must be my child because that is my duty…not that of the other children.
I am not perfect:
No parent is perfect, I will make mistakes and as a parent of a child with special needs does not mean I won’t make mistakes. I do not need to be reminded by people of my mistakes in meetings.
Labels are for jars…not children:
If my child is labeled with a classification or diagnosis that is difficult to swallow as a parent. My child is so much more than a label…if he is labeled how will you, his/her peers, and the school as a whole see him/her?
It can be intimidating coming to the school:
When a meeting is called, it is the parent and (many times) several educators. It can be lonely and intimidating to be one person meeting several like-minded individuals who may all agree with each other and are a part of the same team.
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What educators want parents to know:
We are on the same page:
Our goal is similar, doing what is best for the students. It may mean that we advocate or go about it differently. It may mean we are looking at the whole class versus only your child. However, we all want what is best for the children.
We do not know your child better than you:
No matter how much education, experience or training we have; we do not know your child better than you. This means we know programs, how to address certain issues, however, we do not know those attributes that make your child him/herself better than you have over their lifetime.
Understand that we are looking at the big picture:
The challenge becomes looking at the one (your child) versus the needs of the many (the other students). Those are sometimes contrasting and trying to do what is best for most of the children is a delicate balance.
We are not always there but most of us want to understand:
True, we are not in your shoes (none of us can truly be in the exact shoes of another). However, we want to understand, we want to know and succeed in doing what is best for your child.
Just because we disagree does not mean we want to be disagreeable:
Advocating and determining what is best for a child is not always black and white. That means we can both be advocating passionately for what we believe is right and, at the end of the day, we can agree to disagree but both be on the same page of trying to do right by your child.
The most vital aspect of educator-parent communication is that we clearly voice that we all started in the same place; because we wanted to make a difference for children. Whether it be one, or many, we all started out with the right intent…how we go about getting to right conclusion is a path that may take many twists and turns but requires patience and understanding among all for the benefit of those who are working towards the benefit of the child who counts on the support network of educators and parents. Without this seamless network, the support is likely to tear and leave our most important next generation of learners at peril.
Brett J. Novick, MS, LMFT, CSSW, has a master’s degree in family therapy and post-graduate certifications in school social work as well as educational leadership, He is an adjunct instructor at Rutgers University. Mr. Novick is the author of Parents and Teachers Working Together, The Likable, Effective, Productive Educator, Brain Bullies, Crappy to Happy and Don’t Marry a Lemon and has had published numerous national and international articles as well as received several awards for his work in education, administration, counseling, social work, and human rights. More information on his books can be found on his website www.brettsbooks.com.
Available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Nook, Kindle, or wherever books are sold.
This article was featured in Issue 80 – Conquering Challenges With ASD