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Working & Communicating with Parents of Special Education Students

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  • 0:04 A Working Relationship
  • 0:38 Keys to Success: Communication
  • 2:01 Respect & The Special…
  • 3:14 Conflict Management
  • 4:11 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Bethany Calderwood

Bethany has taught special education in grades PK-5 and has a master's degree in special education.

If you have students in special education, establishing a relationship with their parents is important for student success. In this lesson, you will review some tips for productive interactions with parents of special education students.

A Working Relationship

As a teacher, you do not work alone and, in special education, teamwork is key to student success. In addition to working with your school colleagues, you work closely with the parents of your special education students. However, parent communication can be challenging in a variety of ways. It can be hard to find time to connect with all of your students' parents, and when you do, parents can have a very different perspective on school and their students than you do. But it's essential to develop a good working relationship with parents, because that relationship can be a great asset to you and your students.

Keys to Success: Communication

How do you develop a productive working relationship with the parents of special education students? Here are some tips to keep in mind.

One, communication. At the beginning of the year, establish a pattern for parent communication. This pattern should include several important features. Plan to provide updates on students on a regular basis, and let parents know the frequency and content of these updates. If parents know they will receive certain information on Friday, they may not feel the need to ask you for that information on Wednesday. The frequency and type of updates you need to provide will vary somewhat depending on your student population, but parents should always know the basic plan.

Make clear when you are and when you are not available. Let parents know the best ways and times to contact you. Establishing boundaries at the beginning of the year helps protect your teaching time. For example, you may be available for parent phone calls immediately before or after school, but not during the school day unless you have an appointment. Be consistent about responding to communications in a timely fashion.

Make sure that you incorporate some flexibility into your availability. Some parents will have special communication needs, such as translation. Some parents need to know particular information about their student on a regular basis. Find out what these communication needs are and work with parents to meet these needs.

Respect & the Special Ed Process

It's your job to be an expert on education. Remember that the parents of your special education students are the experts on their kids. Be respectful of their opinions, needs, and ideas. Make a habit of listening carefully.

The special education process, including evaluations, legal rights, individualized education plans (IEPs), meetings, and progress reports, can be overwhelming. You may need to act as a translator for the parents of your students to help them understand what's going on. Be aware that parents have different levels of familiarity and comfort with the process and may need different levels of explanation.

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