Conference Night!

It is one of the big markers of the school year at least in my opinion.  It is the time for the school to have their first time to talk with you for your child’s school year.  When you have a typically developing child, conference night is one that can be stressful.  You hope all is going well with grades and social issues.

So of course conferences are important, but when you have a child with special needs this time is even more important.  Our Elizabeth has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and Global Dyspraxia, which make school and daily life a great deal of work.

Let me share a little story of our first conference night for Elizabeth and it is called:

We did it so wrong

When Elizabeth was young and in her very first year of school after being home schooled for two years, we did not know the importance of conference night related to Elizabeth and her special needs. Here is how it went.  We walked in, sat down, heard how many things were going wrong, heard how many things we needed to work on, made a plan to talk “soon” and left.

Wow!  The things we learned starting that night.

So I thought I would share some of those things.

1. PREPARE- 

This means make a list of the things you want to know about and talk about. Copy one for the teacher to make notes on.  And bring your copy of the IEP!!!

On the list think about and make notes on any and all things you wish to talk about:

Think about how your child arrives home from school- upset?, mad?, happy? Write it down.

Bring any tests or papers that make you say “HMMM?” maybe they were not adapted for your child? Maybe you want to ask about more help for your child.  Write it down!

Is your child nervous to go to school?

Not eating lunch?

Not sleeping well?

Write it down!  Because I will tell you now, that trying to remember it all on the spot is one tough trick to pull off.  So having things written down is the best.

2. COMMUNICATE-

Take a deep breath and communicate your thoughts.  I know it is intimidating sometimes but if you remember that any and all things you do, you are doing FOR your child, you will find the courage and words.

3. READ THE IEP BEFORE

This is a big one.  Take the time to read the IEP because by doing this you will be able to assess the actual progress of your child versus the goals set by the school system.

You will be able to see where more work is needed or where the focus needs to be.

It is so worth your time to settle in with your IEP for a bit of cozy reading. And do not be afraid to write your notes on the IEP.

4. PLAN YOUR FOLLOW-UP TIME

This is a big one too!  Because many times the words ” We can meet later to talk about it.” will get tossed about and it is good that there is a want to meet.  But for me, I need to know the pragmatics.  I need to know when, where and who will be there.

So as for this during the conference time.  It helps everyone to mark it down early.

5. BRING SOMEONE

I used to think it did not matter if I was alone for some interactions with the school but I have learned and not in a good way, that bringing someone with you is so important.  Not only from the support standpoint, but from the standpoint of having another set of ears to hear and process what was said. So take that special person!

6. COMMUNICATE

I put this down again, because now might be a good time to ask about communication options for you and the school to keep each other “on the same page”  We have always used a communication notebook( at least after this first conference night debacle)  and this is a wonderful way to achieve the above. And a wonderful way to keep the communication current and honest.

So as you see the date on the calendar approach see it as a chance for you to help  direct the conference night to the issues and concerns you have as well as the chance to establish a great relationship with your child’s teachers.  This helps to grow the teamwork attitude that is vital to the success of your child.

Good luck and I wish everyone a peaceful week.

Michele Gianetti author of “I Believe In You: A Mother and Daughter’s Special Journey” and “Emily’s Sister”

 

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