Last year I attended summer school orientation with my child. I waited my turn with another parent to quickly explain to the teacher, in 10 minutes or less, the specifics and concerns about our children.
As I left the class, I thought to myself: “How much will the teacher retain of what was said to her about her new students?” The teacher had already mentioned she had not read through all of the students’ IEPs. How fair was it for us, the parents, to expect her to retain everything in a brief meeting?
If Only They Knew
As I was contemplating this, it dawned on me how many other times it would have been helpful for someone to know about my child — people like her art teacher, who called to tell me my child was misbehaving in class.
Once I explained that my daughter was trying to show her independence and was trying to help the teacher clean up (just a bit too early), the teacher was able to redirect such behavior to an appropriate time. By giving my daughter specific responsibilities, the teacher made her feel included and responsible. It was a quick fix once the understanding was in place.
Then, I remembered other times that I had been called about my child not behaving in the lunchroom. And when a chorus teacher put her on the second tier of a stage, not taking into consideration that my child “rocks” from side to side when she is excited, she lost her balance, fell from the tier and got a black eye. These thoughts came flooding back to me and I thought there has to be a better way.
A ‘Cheat Sheet’
I have seen “getting to know my child,” documents such as portfolios set up like scrapbooks. There are many very nice ones. But for school, the samples I have seen were cumbersome and I wondered if they would really be read.
I wanted a quick reference guide (a cheat sheet, if you will) about my child — a simple, easy-to-read, one-page, front-and-back sheet —that would give specific information to everybody who works with my child.
I created a “Getting to Know My Child” form. At the start of school, I filled out the form, pasted a current photo of my child and made copies — one sheet, both sides. I placed it in an envelope and addressed it individually to anyone I thought this could benefit, people like the principal, assistant principal, secretary, aide, art teacher, chorus teacher and PE coach.
For her teacher, who is new to her school, I attached a copy of my child’s syndrome and her summer school evaluation. For her occupational, physical and speech therapists, I included a copy of her most recent evaluations from services outside of school.
So far, I have received very positive feedback on the “Getting to Know My Child” form. Three of her teachers thanked me and said it was very helpful. The assistant principal stopped me to say “thank you, it was very informative.”
She mentioned that she learned some things she did not know about my child. This is my child’s second year at this school, so we shouldn’t assume, as I did, that the staff knows our children. The assistant principal also said she wished she had one of these forms for all of her students in the school.
Chantai Snellgrove is the founder and editorial director of the online magazine Parenting Special Needs. Reprinted by permission.