Besides Halloween there is something else that is on the calendar for the very near future and its name is..

Conference night!

At least in our school system, conference night is in October/early November. With COVID protocols in place in many school systems, conferences may be offered in person or virtual (such as Zoom) or over the phone.

I know that for our last ones for Michael, my neurotypical son in high school, I chose talking on the phone as an easy and effective way to communicate with Michael’s teachers. And it worked out well as I was able to concentrate as they talked, share the things I needed to share from the papers I had prepared prior and take some notes without having to be concerned with making “eye contact” on the screen or seeming distracted as I wrote some key words down.

Now, I have to say that I am not sure that I would have preferred that option if I had been talking about Elizabeth to her teachers if the same scene were set. Especially when she was young.

I think I would pick the option of a Zoom call, just to be able to see the expressions of the teachers as well as hear their voice. I think both help you understand the way they truly feel about how your child is doing.

I can remember early conference times where the look in the teacher’s eyes told me so much about their feelings and concerns for Elizabeth. Especially before we had really become solid advocates for her, so think 1st and 2nd grade.

For those who don’t know, my daughter Elizabeth has special needs. She has global dyspraxia, SPD(Sensory Processing Disorder) as well as an auditory processing disorder and due to her dyspraxia, she had a speech delay ( she did not talk until she was 5)

So as we presented this beautiful and complexly wired child to the school, it took work and good advocacy for them to fully understand her and as parents who were new to this IEP-advocacy-work with the school-and-follow up well-thing we only saw conference night as a chance to talk and go over how she was doing NOT see the teacher’s face look sad or the therapist who was there, seem sullen.

And that is why I would pick the Zoom option.

Words and expression together.

It helps to complete the picture for your child.

Something else, to think about is to make sure you are prepared because you are given a certain amount of time to talk and usually the teacher has something that they want to show every parent. Maybe it was a certain test or project they did. So there goes some of your time.

Being prepared with questions or concerns makes good use of your time. Bring a list and don’t be shy asking questions.

If your child has an IEP, read and reread it before the night. So you are familiar with the goals set and can discuss them readily instead of looking them up, reading them while they watch you read them and trying to process them all while the clock ticks

Sometimes, that allotted time just isn’t enough, please don’t hesitate to tell the teachers/therapists just that and ask if you can schedule another time to continue the conversation. And get it on the schedule that night. Then you don’t have to try to reach the teacher while they are in school or leave messages.

I know we left those early conferences with more questions than answers and more concerns than we went in with.

Experience is a great teacher. And we have had a lot of experiences ( insert smile face here) Hope the tips help someone who might need them.

I wish everyone a peaceful week,

Michele Gianetti author of I Believe In You