For those who don’t know, my daughter, Elizabeth has special needs. Specifically, global dyspraxia and sensory processing disorder (SPD). She is currently 23 years old. And we learned many a thing in our years at the school on the topic of conference night.

I learned that waiting until conference night did not work for us because anything that was a concern needed addressed before her anxiety increased or bad habits were made. So I learned very early on in Elizabeth’s life in the school system to insert myself into her school year after a particularly rough start to 2nd grade. Meaning, every 3 weeks I physically went to the school to meet with the teacher to review things like:

How was she doing in the classes?

How are her IEP (Individualized Education Goals) being met?

Any struggles during the day?

Any anxiety?

Anything new that concerns you?

Anything I need to do or work on at home?

I felt that by doing this, we fostered the team work concept and I was not waiting for conference night to catch up on it all in the 15-20 minute time frame we are all allotted.

I know now with COVID, you are not allowed in the schools to “pop” in but the theory still holds. Frequent communications is the best way to gain the support needed from the school system. And the best way to address concerns from both sides before a problem takes root. And he best way to foster teamwork with your child’s success as the true goal. By video, emails, phone calls or zoom….whatever works to share your concerns, struggles or successes. All the while keeping an eye on the IEP goals for the year.

Our little story:

Elizabeth’s anxiety about working alone on her papers was a real issue in 2nd grade….

One that required attention and work from both sides…

One that started at the beginning of the year.

One that was not brought up to us until conference night.

One of many actually that we learned that night.

One that helped set our path for how we handled issues moving forward.

So I guess what I am saying in all this is that conference night is the first night that the school encourages communications. But for those with special needs and especially now with COVID, communication can’t and shouldn’t be only on this night.

Maybe now is the time to make plans to talk more, share more and collaborate more? Reread the IEP, make notes and do what is best for your child as we always try to do!

I wish everyone a peaceful week. Please wear a mask! I do for my mom and others who could get really ill.

Michele Gianetti author of “Emily’s Sister

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