Tips for teachers when talking to parents of children with SEN
As we approach Christmas time, many teachers, teaching assistants and parents will be talking to each other about 2018 – and the needs of the child concerned.
Talking to parents or carers is not always straightforward – and difficult conversations with parents of children with additional needs can sometimes become fraught for both sides. We have just launched our ‘parent carer’ page on our website – so we thought this ‘tip list’ fitted in nicely with that.
Gemma Corby is Sendco at Hobart High School, Norfolk and has written this tip list for anyone who is discussing SEN student’s needs – here’s how to make these conversations as successful as possible!
Know the needs
SEN teachers have regular conversations with parents and carers. Several say that they can find parents’ evening difficult, because some teachers do not seem to know or fully understand their child’s needs.
Understandably, it can get parents’ backs up when teachers say things like, “he needs to work on his spellings” when the child has a diagnosis or dyslexia. Equally, give, “she needs to learn to concentrate more”, a miss when speaking to the parent of a child with ADHD.
Parents are well aware of their child’s diagnoses, difficulties and differences. What they want to hear is what actual progress has been made and what strategies could help their child to progress further.
Watch your wording
Be mindful of your language. Avoid using words such as “slow” or “behind”, as these can have negative connotations. Replace them with “needs additional thinking time” or “is catching his peers up”.
Parents of children with additional needs can, unfortunately, be used hearing a lot of negative feedback. So, always start with something positive – and be genuine as there is nothing worse than a disingenuous compliment. My good friend and former colleague’s mantra is “always start with what the child can do, not what they can’t”.
Keep the ‘teacher voice’ in check
As teachers, we are used to having to make quick judgements about situations and exerting our authority. This is mostly fine in the classroom. However, it helps to not apply the same bullish approach when talking to parents. Some parents may have had very bad experiences of school and could be apprehensive about meeting you. It is essential that you get these parents on side – and quickly.
Remember that parents of children with SEND may be facing all kinds of challenges. Some will have had a battle in securing provision for their child and therefore may be more sensitive to any changes in that provision. A few may have taken time to accept the fact that their child has additional needs or even still be grieving for the child they thought they were going to have. The bottom line is that you do not know what it is like to be in their shoes, so the best thing you can do is be prepared to listen and to offer supportive ways of working together.
If you are a parent who is looking for something to keep all the information about your child in one place – then why not trial our amazing Liferaft application today? It can help save you time and allows you to send any teacher your child’s list of needs all at once.