Hi! I'm part of All Y'all Need, with the ALL an acronym for Amy, Laura & Lisa. I'm Laura,
Amy is my librarian sister, and Lisa is my cousin who teaches Kg. We are excited to
help out Jessica and are wishing her a successful surgery and a speedy recovery!
One of the Kg teachers I work with recently mentioned how her husband, a
businessman, told her she was lucky she didn't have to work in customer service. She
responded with, "What do you think I do all day?!?" As SLPs we are constantly working
with other professionals and students, but this post is going to focus on communicating
When I started out 20 years ago, I was in three schools of various socioeconomic
levels, but the one constant was that most of the parents were supportive of the school.
I was surprised that everyone seemed to take my bright-green newbie
recommendations without hesitating. Times have changed. I still like to think I have a
good relationship with most of my students' parents, but I now make some conscious
decisions when communicating with parents.
An email is rarely the way to go. Emails are convenient. I love email with my coworkers.
But when I get an email from a parent, I usually call. It's more personal, emails
don't convey the tone of the conversation, and clarification is much easier via phone. A
good rule of thumb is to only use email to verify times and dates. For anything else, pick
up the phone.
Make sure the parent understands the plan. When a parent leaves an IEP meeting,
he/she is going to contact a support person - a spouse, family member, friend, etc. I
want the parent to leave the meeting with the ability to communicate to another person
exactly what their child's program is.
IEP meetings can be overwhelming for parents. Schools are my home turf, but for
parents, the school setting can be intimidating. If the team is all sitting around the
conference room table, the parent feels like we've been talking about their child without
their presence. I try to meet the parent in the foyer and walk into the room with them so
they are not the only ones standing up when they enter the conference room.
I attended an IEP meeting with one parent whose eyes widened as she watched various
school personnel and members of the AU team fill up the room - the principal, two
teachers, the LSSP, behavior specialist, PT, OT, and me - and she actually made a
remark about being overwhelmed. My principal responded with, "We know that. How
can we help you to not be overwhelmed?" The parent wasn't sure, but as we broke
down everything for her, she became more relaxed. The principal followed up on the
parents' feelings at the end of the meeting, and while she still had a lot of information to
process, she was grateful to everyone for taking the time to work with and learn about
Repair communication breakdowns. Breakdowns are usually a person's response to
not understanding something or feeling out of place. It's usually about feelings, not the
actual words or plans.
We need to talk in everyday language and not throw acronyms all over the place, as in
"We're going to review the FIE, look at the IEP, consider a BIP, and oh by the way, the
OT and PT are here." If we talk in Special Ed-ese, it will just embarrass or frustrate
parents and lead to shutdowns or attitude. Address the whole committee: "We're going
to talk about goals and objectives. In the paperwork you will get, you'll see IEP goals
and objectives". Since both teachers and parents get a copy of the meeting, this
statement doesn't single out anyone.
Another technique to help an overwhelmed parent is to ask questions to others, for
example asking the teacher to clarify what a 10 set is or to give examples of responses
in the classroom. If parents see others asking questions, they'll be more comfortable
getting their concerns across.
If there's a long or involved discussion, summarize and ask everyone at the meeting if
they understood. Don't single anyone out. It's a team.
Extend a bridge by using everyday language, asking clarification questions to all team
members, and asking for understanding from everyone on the team.
Thanks for reading! And again, wishing the best for Jessica!