Home-School Collaboration for Children with Learning Disabilities
The transition into elementary school can be especially tough for our children with learning disabilities and challenging behavior. Whether they’ve been at home or in a preschool program, they’ve been in an environment that is more flexible and usually less overstimulating than the average kindergarten or first grade classroom. Once in elementary school, there are usually more kids to deal with; the day may be longer; the schedule may be less flexible; and the demands on them are greater.
Whatever the diagnosis, Attention Deficit Disorder (with or without Hyperactivity), an auditory processing disorder, Dyslexia, Aspergers, etc., our kids do better in school when we parents do our share. As stressful as it can be to reinforce learning at home, as difficult as it is to add regular contact with the school to our schedules, as much as we’d like to just let the teachers take on the challenges of our kids for some part of the day, our children are more likely to get more out of the school year if we’re enthusiastically involved. Here are some helpful reminders from the “pros” — parents of children with learning disabilities whose kids are generally doing well in school.
1. Provide the teacher with adequate information about your child at the beginning of the school year. No, it’s not wise to withhold information on the grounds that the teacher might be unduly influenced by it. Withholding information only means that the teacher isn’t prepared for your child’s needs or personality. Misinterpretations and mistakes may be made that will take weeks or months to undo.
2. If the child is in therapy or is receiving special services of any kind, sign releases so the professionals can talk to each other. Outcomes are generally far better when left hands and right hands know what each other is doing
3. Share any methods you have found to be effective in keeping your child happy, calm, and on task. The teacher will be grateful for it.
4. Set up a communication book and use it. Have your child carry a small notebook in his backpack. Before your child heads to school, write a short note about any issues or events that might have impact at school. Knowing about a sleepless night, the arrival of grandparents for a visit, conflict at home, etc., can help a teacher be more patient if there are challenging behaviors. Ask the teacher to return the favor by putting a sentence or two in the book at the end of the school day to keep you in the loop about achievements and challenges.
5. Be a good partner: Sign the education plan in a timely way. If you have objections to the plan, be active and timely in negotiating changes. Be aware that while a plan is unfinished, your child isn’t necessarily getting the help she needs.
6. Volunteer to help in the classroom when you can. But make sure your help is really helpful. Your presence may be distracting to your child. If that’s the case, there are other ways to help out. Consult with the classroom teachers. Sometimes, for example, they need help after school, setting up materials for lessons the next day. Sometimes it’s helpful to have someone take a couple of kids at a time to the library to work on a project so that the teacher can focus on the rest of the students.