Tips for Parents

Working with Teachers
The Basics
Ways to Help Your Child in Reading and Writing
More Tips for Parents/Teachers

Working with Teachers

Parents play a vital role in their child’s education. They are equal partners in the team that develops their child’s IEP, and they care deeply that their son or daughter learns and grows as a student and as a person. In the course of their child’s educational career, parents may interact with a large number of professionals (e.g., their child’s special education teacher, general education teacher, occupational therapist, and perhaps many different consultants). Being able to work effectively with these many professionals, exchanging ideas and concerns, communicating openly about what’s working and what’s not, are important elements in their child’s educational success. This section offers suggestions to parents on how to establish and maintain good working relationships with the professionals involved in their son’s or daughter’s education. These tips were collected from several parents of children of a variety of ages, with a variety of disabilities.

The Basics

  • Remember that, as a parent, you know your child best and have the greatest investment in him or her. You need to diplomatically but strongly advocate for your child.
  • Develop relationships with the teachers who work with your child.
  • Get information and know your options.
  • Remember that the people that you are working with also care for your child.
  • You need to be credible and informed to have people listen to and respect what you say. Be sure to learn what your rights are.
  • Be aware that parents have a lot of power. Don’t wait for two months to check in for results. If something is not resolved quickly, work on it. Teachers don’t always have as much leverage as you think. You may be able to help your child’s teacher resolve something much faster. Work as a team.
  • Remember that working with the school can be a very emotional, personal process because this is your child. It’s very easy to feel defensive. Try to describe your needs in behavioral terms, not emotional terms.
  • Keep things in perspective: Ask yourself, “Is what my child doing typical for his age group, or does his behavior have to do with his disability?” Encourage those who work with your child to do so, too.
  • Know that everything you do is not written in stone. You can change things. Just because you decided something at the end of June doesn’t mean you have to do it for the next year. You can change it at the end of October if it’s not working. You can call the committee back and ask to reevaluate the situation.
  • Reaffirm that “I don’t expect you to fix my child” but to help him or her learn.
  • Remember to think of your child first. The disability is just part of who your child is. Remind people of your child’s strengths. Encourage teachers to praise him or her.
  • Ask the teacher to have your child be in the helper position at times, not always the one being helped.
  • Encourage a work ethic at home. Put value on those traits that promote success in school: responsibility, consequences for behavior, organization, and punctuality. Jobs at home translate into expectations. A sense of cooperation and self-worth follow.
  • If you are not sure how to talk with teachers, connect with other parents. It’s like an adult buddy system. Talk to other parents about what they are doing. You can get a parent advocate to work with you – someone who’s gone through what you’re going through.
  • The most important thing to do is to establish open communication. Try to be non-threatening. You can make friends and get what you need.
  • Look at yourself closely to identify habits or attitudes that interfere with effective communication or your being taken seriously.
  • Be sure to communicate any concerns or ideas right away, over the phone or with a note, while the discussion can be relatively casual. By communicating early, you can avoid becoming angry and frustrated; by intervening early, you can avoid a situation growing into a bigger problem or crisis.
  • One very effective way to keep communication open is to use log books. The teachers (and others who are working with your child) write in these each day and send them back home with the child. The parent reads what the teacher writes and responds and sends the book back with the child. These are especially effective with non-verbal children. It keeps the communication open between parent and teacher. Plus, sometimes writing to a teacher makes it easier to communicate an idea in the way that you want to express it.
  • Inform teachers immediately of any unusual circumstances occurring at home. A stressed child cannot attend to a task, often exhibits disruptive behavior, or may simply space out. Teachers may misread the signs. Examples range from divorce to a sick grandmother to a new baby. Each student has a very different response to these life changes.
  • If you feel that decisions are being made without you, call and ask to be included in discussions. You can suggest a “pre” IEP meeting to talk about some of your ideas and what your goals and the goals of your child are. This is especially helpful for meetings that involve therapists and/or both special and general education staff. By talking before the meeting with the specific people who are responsible for your areas of concern, you can structure the formal meeting so it goes smoothly and so the entire group can sign off with only one meeting.
  • Make a list of things you want to say before you go to a meeting and take it with you.
  • When you meet, give yourself plenty of time to discuss important issues.
    Used by permission from the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY).

    Ways to Help Your Child in Reading and Writing

      1. Read to your child every day. Read textbooks, newspapers, encyclopedias and classics. Allow time for your child to ask questions.

      2. Use the public library to obtain educational phonograph records.
      3. Encourage your child to listen to specific educational programs on Channel 12. Talk about the show. Find books or encyclopedia articles on the same subject. Read aloud to your child if needed.
      4. Do not urge him to read books that are too difficult. Do not discourage him from reading books that are too easy. Respect his wishes when he prefers not to read aloud.
      5. Remind him to use his finger to point to each word or phrase as he reads. After a few months he may wish to point only to the beginning of each line.
      6. When your child has trouble with a word in a paragraph, tell him the word. It’s better not to have him work at sounding out words because he may lose the meaning of the sentence.
      7. Encourage him to say the letters or sounds in each word as he writes. The left hand should be placed on the upper left hand corner of the page, never in his lap or supporting his head.
      8. Encourage him to use two hands when he writes. The left hand should be placed on the upper left hand corner of the page, never in his lap or supporting his head.
      9. Help him learn to express anger and frustration. He will naturally have more frustration than the average child because of his reading problem. There are some excellent suggestions for parents in “Between Parent and Child” by Haim Ginot.
      10. Support your child’s teacher. Even if you think the teacher is giving work that is too difficult or too easy, remind the child that he is his own best teacher and should figure out ways to help himself whenever possible.

    Marilyn Kay
    Executive Director
    The Reading Group



    Multi-sensory techniques have been found to be useful for teaching children with visual-perceptual problems, find motor problems, and memory problems often associated with learning disabilities. The following techniques are multi-sensory in that they use visual, auditory, and tactile/kinesthetic stimulation to help children remember and learn more efficiently.

    1. Writing in “Sand” A sand tray or cookie sheet with about _ to _ cup Cream of Wheat sprinkled over the surface can be used for writing practice. The childÕs hand can be guided for proper letter and numeral formation. The child should say each letter or number while writing.

    2. Chalkboard writing The teacher can guide the hand as the child writes with chalk or wet sponge on the chalkboard. Saying the letters while writing is very important. It is often wise to have the child write as large as possible. “Painting” letters on the chalkboard with brush and water can also be fun for the child.

    3. Finger Paint Use shaving cream or finger paints on a smooth formica table top. The child can write letters and numbers and then erase when finished. It is easy to clean up and the child will enjoy writing on the slippery surface.

    4. Tracing in Air (Skywriting) Ask the child if he can writ letters with large arm movements in the air. The teacher may wish to guide the hand and arm as needed.

    5. Blind Writing After the child has been guided through several letters, see if he can write the letters with eyes closed. Later this technique can also be used for writing and remembering words.

    6. Drawing on Back As the child writes and says each letter, draw letters on the childÕs back. Later, play a game of identifying the letters that are drawn on the back.

    7. Pipe Cleaners Use pipe cleaners or clay to make letters, names, and words.

    8. “Bathtub Crayons” Soap crayons, sometimes called “bathtub” crayons, are fun to use and can be easily removed from tile with a damp cloth.

    9. Easel and Poster Paint An easel and poster paint allow the child to experiment with colors, shapes, and design. It can also be useful for practicing letters.

    10. Dough and Putty Use flour dough or Theraputtyª and a dowel stick or eraser end of a pencil. have the child make shapes and letters in the dough or putty.

    11. Tracing Crayoned Letter Use a large wax crayon to write letters and numbers. Have the child run his finger over the wax and then have him write the letter or number.

    12. Plastic Letters Have the child find magnetic letter or numbers in a bean bucket, and then name them before seeing them.

    13. Sandpaper Letters Place paper over sandpaper and write on it with crayons. the child can get the feel of letters and words by writing on these textured surfaces.

    14. Key Object If the child is ready to learn about sound-symbol relationships, choose key objects or key pictures, such as an apple, banana, or cat for each letter. Help him match magnetic letters with the objects. ABC books that have simple colorful pictures can be used as well. You may want to try to find objects like the ones in the pictures for the child to use in matching games.

    Marilyn Kay
    Executive Director
    The Reading Group