Building a Collaborative Relationship with Your Child’s Educators
Your child’s teacher and school are an essential and enormous part of your child’s overall support team. Beyond the traditional education that schools provide, they are responsible for having your child’s best interest and special needs met. Building a collaborative relationship between your child’s educators and extended team members is key to experiencing progress. There are several steps parents can take, both ahead of and throughout the school year, to ensure a child achieves their goals.
Introductions to the Teacher
The first step to take before a new school year is to introduce yourself, your child, and necessary caregivers to your child’s teacher. Parents typically meet their student’s teacher at an orientation or back-to-school night. If this is not offered prior to the start of school, then it is recommended to email the teacher and set up a video or phone call.
During this call, parents should share any pertinent information about their child that may affect their learning or social experience. This will help the teacher understand your child’s skills, wants, needs, and previous experiences. Starting off with an open and honest dialogue allows the teacher to see what makes your child unique and better understand how they can approach building their student-teacher relationship. During this call, you can also confirm other staff that your child will interact and establish relationships with during the year.
Communicating with your child’s teacher or school is an integral part of building a collaborative relationship. Be sure to express anything that you believe is important for the school or teacher to know about your child. Topics can range from concerns or questions about grades and difficulty or ease with particular subjects or projects. It can also include noticeable changes in your child’s behavior or new topics that are actively being worked on during ABA therapy sessions. Family updates are important to share as well.
Remember that communication has many forms; it is recommended to select a method of communication that works best for you and the teacher. Email is encouraged so that conversations can be documented for both parties and referred back to at another time, if needed. Video conferencing such as Zoom can be effective and convenient for including multiple parties in one conversation at the same time. Some schools have messaging programs that are utilized as well. Additionally, some teachers may also offer phone calls or text messaging as an option.
Ensuring that both parties are kept abreast of important updates, changes, and concerns allows for a successful collaboration and learning experience for your child.
Individualized Education Program (IEP)
An Individualized Education Program is a document created for any student who needs extra help, support, or special education in any form, including students with autism. Your child’s IEP will outline appropriate support, services and goals that will assist in preparing your school to provide the best educational experience possible for your child.
It is important to ensure that your teacher and school have received, reviewed and understand your child’s IEP. The schedule of services and contact information of the people administering those services should be provided to you. IEPs may change on an as-needed basis throughout the school year depending on your child’s needs. If no changes are made during the year, it will be reviewed annually.
The IEP is a crucial component of your child’s education that should be understood by all parties.
The more a parent is involved in their child’s school, the more they will be in the know about what is happening at the school or in the classroom. Additionally, parents can nurture relationships with other parents and school staff members to create a sense of belonging to their community.
Schools typically offer a variety of ways for parents to get involved. These can include joining committees such as a Parent Teacher Association (PTA), event planning, or becoming part of a board. Schools may also ask for parents to help chaperone field trips or volunteer in school activities and events. Not all participation opportunities take place during school hours. There are likely morning, evening, weekend, or holiday break opportunities as well. Schools appreciate parent involvement and can work with parent schedules to find a solution that works for everyone.
Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA’s) on Campus
In some instances, your child’s Board Certified Behavior Analyst can observe your child on campus and attend IEP/Addendum meetings. They will also collaborate with your child’s teacher and other school staff that work with your child. If your child’s BCBA needs to be present on campus, this must be communicated with your child’s school. It is preferred to provide your child’s school and teacher with their contact information. Sharing the scheduled dates/times for their on-campus presence is also recommended.
The BCBA will likely need to check in at the administrative office and receive a visitor pass or similar identification. It is ideal to complete an introductory meeting ahead of their first visit.
Having your child’s BCBA present during meetings and on campus can result in improved communications regarding effective strategies and goals being targeted. It can additionally allow for an open discussion of prerequisite skills or related goals being worked on. These skills may be practiced in the home, community, or school setting. This fosters a clearer overview of your child to the teacher, school staff, and home behavioral team.
Helpful Autism Resources
There is a possibility that your child’s teacher may not have had a student with autism in their class before. Their knowledge of ASD may also be limited. In this instance, it may be helpful to provide the teacher with information and resources. This can help them better understand how to communicate and interact with your child.
The Autism Learning Partners website has an outstanding comprehensive collection of resources for both teachers and parents that can be found by visiting https://www.autismlearningpartners.com/autism-resources. These helpful resources include:
- Autism Glossary
- Additional Topical Information
Your child’s teachers and school staff members are dedicated to ensuring that your child receives the best possible education. By building a collaborative relationship and creating a strong community who invests in your child’s growth, your child will be better equipped to experience progress.