Yikes! The dreaded parent-teacher conference. For those of us with a special needs child (or two), attending a parent-teacher conference is akin to a root canal. We can feel overwhelmed by our worries about how our child is doing – academically and socially. Here are 7 ways to prepare for a parent-teacher conference that can reduce those worries and support your child’s needs.
While the internet is full of parent-teacher conference checklists that can feel equally overwhelming, a few simple steps can help lower your stress levels while keeping the meeting from being combative. And it is important for us to lower our stress level and that of our children because stress negatively impacts our physical and emotional health.
1. Create a Parent Teacher Meeting Agenda
Creating a parent-teacher meeting agenda helps you control the direction of the meeting. Organize your thoughts, and write down what you are seeing and hearing. Be specific. If you have a behavioral concern, what are you seeing and how are you managing it? Sometimes children “let their hair down” at home and keep it behaviorally together at school, so a teacher may not be aware of the struggles at home. On the flip side, children with learning or attentional issues may display behaviors at school that they don’t show at home due to stress around learning or social interactions. If behaviors are present, inquire if your child is the only one displaying the behavior.
With learning issues, find out where they are compared to the other students in the class or instructional group. So, are they the top reader or at the bottom? And is your child at this level with supports? If you have a concern about reading, narrow it down; decoding, blending words, accuracy, comprehension, etc. These kinds of questions can help draw out a developmental lag or a deficiency.
By setting the objectives of the parent-teacher conference, you help keep the meeting focused on your goals for your child and ensure a productive discussion.
2. Talk to Your Child
After organizing your concerns, talk to your child. If you haven’t started the dialogue with your child about their learning, behavioral, or attentional issues, now is the time to do so. How do they feel about school? Do they complain? And if so, what do their complaints center on – social interactions, reading, math, writing, the teacher, boredom, fatigue and so on.
Parents’ meeting points should take into account the child’s feelings so that the family can work together with the teacher. Think about what you can do at home to mitigate those complaints but also help your child to understand that learning can sometimes be hard for everyone. Kids today don’t always like the slowed, non-digital pace of the classroom. Sharing your child’s thoughts with the teacher can help find ways to support the child but develop a communication partnership.
Come to this meeting ready to listen. Your teacher is with your child a lot, and most teachers want to help your child. Listen to what they are seeing. If they present concerns, listen to what they are and to what they are doing to support your child. If all you do is prepare a parents’ “teacher meeting speech,” you’re not going to create an environment of mutual support for your child.
Write down the teacher ’s observations and keep an open mind. Sometimes it is hard to hear that your child is having difficulty, especially when they are young. However, when you hear the concerns and validate them, you can take the next steps to make a difference for your child.
We know that early intervention with everything from anxiety, ADHD, Dyslexia, OCD, Autism or other mental and developmental issues can change the trajectory of your child's life. You simply can’t intervene early enough with emotional or learning issues.
4. Examine the Data
Schools do a lot of testing, so there is a lot of data about how your child is learning in multiple areas. From standardized tests to curriculum-based assessments, we are conducting a lot of measurements.
These measurements typically how much your child is absorbing from the district’s curriculum. If your child has already been “red flagged” and is receiving some level of support, then there will be even more data. Additionally, a higher level of formal testing has been conducted that can provide some clues as to why your child is struggling. Schools now have tiers of intervention with goals attached to it. These goals measure the efficacy of the intervention and give us data about whether it is working or not.
Looking at this intervention-based data can make your parent-teacher more meaningful and may lead to a discussion about what additional supports can be available.
5. Ask What Supports are Available
Ok, so now you know your child is having a hard time; the next question should be, “What can we do to help him?” Knowing the right parent-teacher meeting questions can help you create a more appropriate support level for your child.
Schools have a lot of support they can offer, but these are unique to each building. At your meeting, identify the specific need and ask what supports or programs that can be put in place. Is there a special reading program, social skills group, or morning sensory program? What are the educational, social, and emotional supports your school offers? Inquire as to how the teacher thinks how your child will respond to supports and why they feel that way. Parents are often surprised at how much can be done for a regular education student or even a student with special needs. Opening the discussion with your teacher at the parent-teacher conference is important.
The importance of a parent-teacher meeting lies in setting aside a specific amount of time to focus on your child’s needs. Using this time to create a productive conversation may prove invaluable to your child’s success at school.
6. Make a Plan
Although it might feel like you’re back in school, taking parent-teacher conference notes can help you define the issues and make a plan with school staff to support those challenges. Once you set up the plan, get the details and have the school put it in writing. Ideally, the plan should define the area of need and make measurable goals.
You also want to make sure that the plan includes who will be working with your child and how often they will meet. You will fill better knowing there is a well-defined plan in place and your child is more likely to progress.
Set a follow-up date to meet and review the plan and your child’s response to that plan. This is VERY important. Creating a plan sets objectives but you have to make sure that the school follows through on its promises.
With the increased demands on teachers today, they may not always be able to provide what is agreed upon and set a follow-up meeting helps to track that. With regards to response to the intervention, this meeting is the time to discuss how effective the intervention was and whether or not additional supports need to be put in place.
When Should I Seek Help About my Child's Learning Issues?
If your child is getting supports and not making progress or presents with the same issue(s) from year to year or for a significant length of time, then it is time for professional assistance. While many advantages of parent-teacher meetings exist, they can’t solve every problem.
If an issue is coming up year after year or occurring long enough to significantly impact them, then your child needs help. Waiting for things to get better isn't going to help the problem. The question becomes do you look for assistance from a private psychologist or ask the school to work with your child more intensively or differently, or possibly have them evaluate your child. That is a personal question that only you can answer but selecting your own provider certainly ensures that someone who is skilled and well suited to your child’s needs will be providing an objective opinion. Moreover, not all issues can be addressed by schools.
At our center, we use a QEEG brain map to “check under the hood” and see what is happening in specific regions of the brain, so we can get to root causes. When you have the right diagnosis and know the real issues, then Dr. Roseann can give parents a treatment plan that is designed to improve your child's learning, attentional, or behavioral issues. Dr. Roseann has three decades or experience and with her trademarked BrainBehaviorReset™ Method, you just can't get the kind of help she offers anywhere else in the world.
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