All parents hope their child is assigned a great teacher each school year. A teacher who can relate well to their students, who is passionate about teaching, who is kind, yet firm, with their class.
We all want the best for our kids, after all.
This is an even more crucial hope for special needs parents, who need their kids’ teachers to be all of the above and more.
As a parent of two kids with special needs, I need their teachers to be willing and able to include my kids in all aspects of class life. I need to be able to share information with them, have a line of open communication and be considered equal partners in my kids’ learning.
Unfortunately, we often have little to no say in who teaches our kids. Also, it’s not always possible to find out who they will be prior to the first day of the school year.
Not a good combination when you need to do all you can to prepare your kids for the year to come.
Which makes it vital that we find an effective way to share our child’s special needs with their new teacher, as early as we can, to ensure they can best support them from the start.
Now, I’m not advocating ambushing your child’s new teacher on the first day, as tempting as that may be. That’s not really the best start to establishing a positive relationship and could do more harm than good in the long run.
Instead, take the time to introduce yourself in the first week, in an informal way. I find that saying hello one day after class and having a quick chat to see how things are going works well. This is non-threatening, friendly and allows the teacher to put a face to your name. It’s a great way to build up rapport too.
Scheduling a meeting for a few weeks into term is also very useful. This gives your child’s teacher the time to assess how your child is in class, understand the dynamics of the classroom and develop some strategies that might help. In my experience, waiting a few weeks also helps the teacher be more receptive to your own ideas and advice.
However, if you really want to connect with the teacher from day one, preparing a letter of introduction is one of the best ways you can share your child’s special needs with their new teacher.
There are many benefits to sharing a letter of introduction with your child’s new teacher:
- It’s a quick & easy way to let the teacher know of specific and important needs of your child
- It’s non-threatening and gives you the chance to communicate directly if you can’t get to the school yourself
- It allows you to share your child’s challenges, as well as their strengths and preferences
- It’s a convenient way to give all teachers, aides and support staff consistent information about your child
- It provides your child with the opportunity to share something about themselves, in a structured way.
As they grow older, encouraging your child to develop an introduction letter for themselves is a great first stepping stone in self-advocacy.
Preparing an introduction letter encourages your child to identify their challenges, recognise their strengths, understand their diagnosis and think about their hopes for the year ahead. These are all important considerations when seeking funding, benefits or reasonable adjustment as an adult.
It’s also a useful exercise for us as parents. Taking stock of these aspects of my kids’ personalities helps me to better understand them, their needs and how I can help them. I hope this can help me better advocate for them and understand what they want to do as they grow older.
If you are looking at putting together something like this, there are many examples you can use as a base for a letter of introduction:
As you can see, introduction letters can come in a variety of forms. There are so many options, possibilities and choices when it comes to developing your own.
I’ve put together a printable you can use below, which can be adapted for children of any age. Feel free to download and share with other parents too.
I know I have mine ready for when Gilbert starts high school and for when Matilda begins her last year of primary school, in just over a week from now!
Good luck with sharing your child’s special needs with their new teacher (feel free to send some luck back my way as well!)
Do you have other suggestions for sharing your child’s special needs with their new teacher?
This article is part of the 2017 Aussie Back to School Blog Hop! Please read the articles here by some wonderful Australian Bloggers! You will find out how the first time school mums are feeling, tips for special needs parents, great lunch box ideas as well as suggestions for those who don’t like crunch and sip!
2017 Aussie Back to School Blog Hop!
Teachers Please Don’t! | Your Kids OT
Advice For First Time School Mums From Seasoned Mums and Teachers | The Multitasking Woman
10 simple ways to make school lunches more fun | Kidgredients
Teacher Types Top Tips for Going Back to School | Teacher Types
Maintaining a Play Filled Routine throughout the School Term | Kids Play Space
5 Must Have Items for Starting Day Care | My Bored Toddler
Handling Crunch and Sip with Fussy Kids | Play With Food
How to share your child’s special needs with their new teacher | My Home Truths
16 things the school holidays have taught me | Eenie Meenie Miney Mum
The Most Important Skills Your Child Needs for School | The Happy Me Shop
101 Sandwich Filling Ideas for Kids | Create Bake Make
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What a great idea! I think the introductory letter is a great way to “voice” everything that is important for your child’s teacher to know. This will help parents feel like they are heard and a great basis for furthe conversation with your teacher later. All the best for the first day of high school!
Thanks Cindy. This is especially important for my son going into high school as I don’t yet know who his individual teachers will be for each subject. We’ve done what we can to prepare the school but there will be a lot of work ahead of us to create meaningful relationships with each subject teacher. Fingers crossed it will all go well!
Great article! I guess it depends a lot on the individual school doesn’t it? At my school parents can make a request for the teacher they want their child to have – and a letter goes home in the last week of school. The children also get a meet the teacher session before the end of the year. This really helps with the transition.
Wow, I wish our school had that system. We’re a small school so it depends a lot on enrolment numbers from year to year. I’ll usually find out my child’s likely teacher in their Term 4 IEP/PLP meeting but with Gilbert heading to high school we are flying blind for the coming year – I have no idea who any of his 10 or so teachers will be yet. It’s all a little scary!
This is such a great post. My twins don’t have special needs, but even so I felt like I wanted to communicate with the teacher some of their nuances and things I’d like to see them helped with ahead of starting school this year. Its never easy to do that when there are 25 other parents wanting to do it too! So important for special needs kids too. We’ve had a great transition with school visits and time with their classes and their allocated teacher happening at the end of last year, so i’m hoping for a smooth transition!
All the best with the start of school with your twins Liv! I saw my youngest off last year and I was still a bundle of nerves, even though I had done it twice before and she doesn’t have the same needs as her siblings! Sounds like you’ve done everything in order to have the best possible preparation – I wish you all well!!!!
Fabulous post and tips here! so helpful! I will definitely be sharing with my clients’ families at the therapy clinic. Thank you! Anna:-)
Thanks for that Anna – I really hope it can help other families pave the way for their very special kids x
I’m sure this article will be extremely helpful for many parents, Kirsty. I’m not sure if it happens everywhere but Elliott’s kindy teacher wrote a big report about him (including a report I wrote) to pass onto his prep teacher. I thought that was a really good idea and didn’t know about it until I received the folder!
As a teacher coming in to a new school, this is an incredibly helpful insight into the struggle of our special needs students. I dont have the benefit of having seen the kids last year and they certainly dont know me. I was planning to send something similar to this home during the first week anyway, I wonder if its ok for me to use yours as a template.
I’m so pleased this has given you some insight. Please feel free to use this if you feel it will give you the info you need to help them in the classroom. I’d love to hear how you go with it too – this helps me understand what teachers need too!
Such useful information. My daughter is still a few years off school, but I am alreayd stressing!