A Simple Guide to Parent Communication
As parents, we want to know everything our child has done at school that day. What went well or not so well? Did they have a good day? Did they learn anything? But we rarely ever get that many details, even from our verbal, typically developing children.
Now imagine having a nonverbal student who has difficulty communicating how their day was. As a parent, we would wonder; what did you eat? Were people nice to you? Did you have a good or bad day?
As teachers, I know how hard it is to be able to have daily communication with parents. There are a million other things going on a daily basis and never enough time, especially to hand write messages into a notebook before dismissal. However, communication is important and a key part of developing and maintaining trust and a positive relationship. Try to incorporate it into your instructional time.
Encourage and teach your students to take ownership and responsibility for themselves.
When I had the same 7 students all day in a self-contained classroom for students with moderate to severe disabilities, I used a ‘Daily News Report’ for each student in my classroom. I would incorporate this into my instructional time, the last 10 minutes of class.
I had them at various levels depending on the student where the student would circle or write what classes they had that day, what they had for lunch, any special activities, and if their day was good, okay, or not so good. Myself or a staff member would check the reports to ensure their accuracy and initial it so parents knew we’d seen it.
If there was anything specific or important to add, we would write it in. Otherwise, everything was right there for them to see. Of course, if anything out of the ordinary or extremely important happened, there would always be a phone call or email instead.
In more recent years, I’ve done similar things depending on the level of each student. Some students needed a daily report, while others just needed an initialed smiley face in their assignment notebook. At the high school level it becomes more difficult since there is block scheduling and different students every period so it can be tricky.
The parents were aware and understood that daily communication was very difficult sometimes. I also told parents, feel free to email me for any reason and I will always respond (within reasonable amount of time) but also know that no news is good news. If I feel like it’s been a while, I just send a quick email update saying “Your student is doing great.. give an example… and I just wanted to touch base and let you know!”
The biggest thing we can do is teach our students to communicate effectively, no matter their communication mode. The more independent they become and can advocate for themselves, the easier our job will be.