On this site, you'll find "Preparing the School" information for a wide range of special needs. Here's how to put it all together into a packet that will help your child's teacher help your child.
Time Required: As much as you want to put into it
- Find your child's disability. Go to the index of school information and click on the link for your child's particular diagnosis. If you don't see it on the list, see if you can find something similar and adapt it to your needs.
- Read over the "Five Things Teachers Need to Know." Some may be more appropriate for your child than others. Some might need additional information specific to your child. Some will need to have the "he" or "she" switched to your child's gender. Personalize these suggestions for your own child's strengths and needs, and write them in a note to the teacher. (See how one reader did this.)
- Add any additional information. Some pages include sections titled "Teacher Tips" or "Educational Implications." Review these, take what seems appropriate to your child, and include it in your correspondence to the teacher. You'll also want to add any of your personal observations, and techniques that have worked well in the past.
- Click on each of the "Printouts to Share with Teachers" and read them through. Some are short, while others are quite lengthy. Pick the ones that you think are most appropriate to your child and of most interest to the school. Sending in too much information all at once may make it seem like too overwhelming a chore for your child's teacher. You can always offer to send in additional resources later.
- Print out the printouts you've chosen. Print them on good white printer paper so they're easy to handle and read. If you like most of a resource but there is a section you disagree with, cut that section out and make a photocopy of that page to include. If it's a sentence you disagree with, use white-out to eliminate or change it and then photocopy that page.
- Make a final draft of your note to the teacher. It should be no more than a page long, whether handwritten or typed. Start with a positive sentence about how much you're looking forward to working with the teacher this year; mention the specific things the teacher needs to know as adapted from our lists; mention that you will be attaching more information; and end by giving your phone number and e-mail address and indicating your eagerness to discuss the material.
- Put together a nice package. If the printouts are not very thick, you can staple them to the note or put the note and pages in a plain letter-sized envelope. If the printouts are bulkier, try putting the note and printouts in a large manilla envelope, inter-office envelope or clear plastic portfolio. The more seriously you take this material and your presentation of it, the more seriously the teacher will take it.
- Follow up. If you don't hear anything from the teacher, check back in a few days with a note or a phone call to make sure she received the material and is reviewing it, and to repeat your offer to discuss it further.
- Remember, the start of school is a hectic time for teachers. Even with the best intentions, they may not want to spend their free time reading reams of material. If you can put together a package that looks manageable and well-thought-out, you'll move to the front of the class.
- In your note, focus on the ways that using techniques appropriate to your child's special needs will make things easier for the teacher, rather than insisting on rights and obligations.
- Keep your tone friendly, helpful and no-nonsense -- one professional to another. You are writing as an expert in your particular child and his or her diagnosis, not as a pleading or pushy parent.
- Make a copy of all correspondence for your records. Using a datebook or a contact log, jot down when and what you sent to the teacher, and what follow-up you made.
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