9 Tips for a Better Relationship With the Special Education Team This Year

I want my kids to have a successful school year. If you are anything like me, the beginning of the year can make me (and my kids) really anxious. I worry about the new teachers and the people who make up part of my child’s special education team.

As we approach the end of the elementary years, I have found 10 things that help me establish a good relationship with the special education team:

1. Write encouraging notes for teachers and staff throughout the year.

I believe teachers are not often appreciated, and a note just to say, “Have a good day” or “It’s Friday, enjoy the weekend,” can help the teacher know you are thinking about them. I also believe when you need the teachers to be on your side, if you have cultivated thankfulness and have that connection, they will be more likely to support you.

2. When you have a meeting, bring food!

In our culture people gather around food. Food is a “peace” offering. At our last school, we were the only family to bring food, so any time there was a meeting or an IEP, teachers and therapists and anyone else present looked forward to the food. We started the meeting with smiles and being friendly. We still had hard conversations, and there were instances where I had to push them to do more for my child, but those conversations were friendly.

3. Give random gifts if you can (keep it simple!)

I have a friend who occasionally grabs a $5 gift card at Target or Starbucks to give to teachers at different times throughout the year. I have sent in a favorite soda or candy bar. Little things that don’t cost much but are appreciated.

4. Send a letter introducing your child and yourself towards the beginning of the school year.

We usually meet with the teachers before the school year begins, but I also hand them a letter talking about my child and our family. My main goal is to be open and relatable. I want the teachers to know I am always willing to work with them and assure them I want them to reach out when necessary.

5. Consider volunteering in the classroom.

I will be the first to admit I don’t do this. I have no time and work a full-time job. However, I have many other friends who do. The other benefit is you get to watch your child in their classroom setting.

6. When needing to confront teachers, use language such as: “I was wondering…” or, “I was puzzled by…”

The language we use does make a difference. If we can avoid a direct confrontation, teachers or staff are less likely to feel defensive, but when we “wonder” or feel “puzzled” it allows for a more open conversation. If you have ever been to counseling, this might be a strategy you have already learned.

7. Always try to work together.

While we might have different goals and different expectations, it is important we try to work together. Are there areas where we can compromise? What is negotiable? If we can work together, we are more likely to have school consider our perspective. And remember, just because your friend had a negative experience at a school or with a certain teacher, it does not mean you will, too. If you are willing to work together, you will most likely have a different and positive experience.

8. Thank your special education team every time you get a chance.

Even for small things. Teachers and other staff are used to hearing lots of negatives from parents, so the more we can encourage them, the better. If you make them feel good about their job, they will go an extra mile for your child.

9. Pick your battles.

Some things are non-negotiable, but we cannot fight all the battles. Pick your battles wisely, and as your kids get older, ask them! You might be surprised how often our kids have their own ideas of what would work best for them.

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