When you have a child with a learning disability, it’s easy to start looking at the school system as the enemy. And while it’s true that the system isn’t perfect—leveraging the school staff as part of your team will help you all work together towards your child’s success. Here are some ways you can get everyone on board with the same program:
If you wait until your first parent teacher interview to start discussion with the teacher, you’ll have missed out on over one-eighth of the school year. One option for getting ahead of the game might be to send a note into the teacher in the first week of school, introducing your child. In this note, you can also welcome the teacher to the ‘team’ and ask for a quick phone call to begin an open discussion.
Make your first phone call a “quick” chat about your child, his or her quirks, and potential learning goals. Volunteer any useful information that may give the teacher insight into working with your child—like, if your child only needs glasses for reading. Touch on a plan to work with the teacher through regular communication. Consider the medium that works best: Phone calls? A note in the child’s agenda? Will the school allow regular emails? Be flexible and conscientious about their time. End the conversation on a positive note and emphasize that you look forward to the next discussion when the teacher is ready or in line with your agreed upon method of communicating.
Do Your Homework (about your child’s learning disability)
If you have a diagnosis, become the expert. Read books. Join Facebook groups. Go where other parents of children like yours congregate. Read up on the laws of your province or state. Understand your school board’s IEP policy. Learn. You are the expert on your child. Help your child to understand their condition and find ways to work around it. If you find a great resource, share it with the teacher. Learning more about working with the issue and consider ways to bring that into the classroom—whatever route you take, knowledge can only help you, your child, and your child’s team to navigate the system.
Don’t be “that” parent
Remember that the teacher has more children in her class than just your child to think about. Don’t become the parent who is over-involved and difficult to work with or you mind end up forcing the opposite outcome than you’re hoping for. Let the teacher and your child lead the communication and intervene as necessary.
Set Your Expectations High
It’s important that you set the bar high. Expect that your child will exceed the expectations of the IEP. Tell the teacher about your expectations and (here’s the important bit) tell your child too. Don’t allow the learning disability to become the “excuse” for either the teacher or your child (or even you) to drop the ball or not strive for more. Feign confidence, even if you’re not feeling it all the time. You know your child can succeed—and your child needs to see that.
Share and Celebrate Success
Acknowledge your child’s achievements, no matter how small they might be. Share them with the school “team” and celebrate them. A filled sticker chart, an unexpectedly high mark (for your child) on a test, a neatly written paper. Whatever it is—make sure that both your child and his or her teacher are aware of progress.
A diagnosis of a learning disability is only a diagnosis. It doesn’t set in stone the path your child will take through their educational career or their life. You have the opportunity to help direct that path and the best way to go about it is by working with the system to create the results you want—and doing it with a positive attitude. Your child’s teacher and school will want to see your child excel as much as you do, it’s your job to share some of your tools for getting them there.