There are a couple of important tips to help have effective meetings with your child’s school. First, communicate. E-mail and discuss your concerns and your questions with your child’s regular education and special education teachers. Hear what they have to say and ask for clarification on any points that you are unsure about. Always document your conversations in a notebook with whom you communicated with and what the answers were. If you have an e-mail, you can easily print the e-mail and put it in your notebook. When meeting, make sure you are aware of what the agenda is and ask questions beforehand if you are unsure.
During meetings, practice active listening. Hear what teachers, administrators, and other professionals have to say. Write it down. You can repeat it back for full understanding by stating, “What I heard you say was….” Practice asking Who, What, When, Why, and Where questions. If you are uncertain, ask, “Can you explain?” Write it down, repeat it back to make sure you fully understand what they are saying. Some points of clarification may be important to add to the DEC5 at the end of the meeting The Importance of a DEC5 and Who Is On Your Child’s Team?
Christina and Wendy
We’ve previously talked about what type of advocate we are. Assume Positive Intent. We have sat on all sides of the “EC table”. Please Don’t Say “It Will Be Okay” We both are parents of children with special needs, we both have worked in the school system as EC coordinators, special education teachers, regular education teachers, speech/language therapist, and Dean of Students. We know the EC paperwork, the laws, school, state, and federal policies. We have sat as advocates for families, teaching them about the paperwork, EC processes, and where to find information. So why tell you all of this?
We want you to know that all of this has been creating what type of advocate we are. We believe in collaboration with other professionals. We have yet to find one person who knows everything regarding EC. We have experienced how important it is to ask questions, be involved, and listen carefully to how and what people say. We believe in empowering families to be advocates for their children. We want to teach and encourage parents first. We will coach you, guide you, teach you what we know so you are knowledgable and ready to communicate with your child’s school. We want to help bridge any gaps between a school and a family. We believe in the focus being on the child. This is what we always come back to. What does the child need? How can we help? How can the parents help? How can the school help? After empowering the family, if you need additional support from us, we’re there. We can sit as advocates for your child at meetings and help bridge those gaps where needed. We also try to have open communication and collaboration first.
Advocate-noun. One that supports or promotes the interests of another.
Empower-verb. To enable or permit.
Mindful-adjective. Attentive and aware.
We support the interest of the child by empowering families first. We are attentive and aware of the way we communicate with schools, families, and other professionals.
Christina and Wendy