Marcia Eckerd, Ph.D.
Marcia Eckerd is an evaluator, consultant, and therapist who specializes in working with children with LD, NLD, and autism-spectrum disorders.
Often parents (and students) start out the school year hopeful that this time around things will be better, only to find several weeks into the new term that nothing has changed; the same struggles your child had last year are back
Under those circumstances it’s hard not to become disheartened. That, however, does neither you nor your child any good. Your goal is to work with your child’s school to achieve the best outcomes possible. And the best way to do that is by avoiding a negative tone. It’s in your child’s interest to project a positive attitude, despite your doubts.
So what should parents do? Following are some suggestions to help you set a collegial tone rather than a confrontational one, which ultimately will not serve your child well.
- In the interest of being proactive and connecting, ask for a team meeting or a meeting of teachers and specific key school staff to talk about the remainder of year.
- Show respect for the fact that the people you’re meeting with are professionals, presumably with training and experience in this area.
- Assume that they are well-intentioned, that they too want the best for your child given the resources available. Even if you disagree on programs, tactics, strategies, or whatever, remember that they believe they are trying to help your child succeed.
- Do present your concerns. Be concise and specific. Have a bullet-point list to help you stay focused. The idea is to present the problems: Johnny can’t seem to do writing at home; he shuts down when he sees math problems; he doesn’t understand assignments even when they’re written down, etc.
- Avoid blaming individuals: Megan didn’t respond to the writing help she was given, rather than Ms. So-and-so is a bad writing teacher.
- Allow the team to come up with solutions instead of telling them what to do. Think of it as brainstorming. It helps when they feel supported instead of defensive. Discuss the solutions in terms of your experience, which is invaluable insight that only you have about your child. Be clear about what has and hasn’t worked, so you can guide solutions in the direction that makes sense to you.
There’s no guarantee that any team meeting will not become contentious, but keep in mind that nothing makes others more defensive and intractable than playing the blame game. Working together for the good of your child is likely to produce better results than if you enter the process projecting your negativity.