Top tips for communicating with your school
It’s that time of year again when the school holidays start to wind down and the back-to-school countdown begins. Which means for some parents and carers of autistic children either starting school for the first time or transitioning to new schools, classes or high school, this time can be really stressful and overwhelming.
While you get organised with uniforms, shoes, lunchboxes and social stories, below we have put together a guide to working in partnership with your child’s school.
Remember you are your child’s greatest advocate and champion.
Building a positive relationship with your child’s school community is the foundation for your child to flourish at school.
There are different ways to do this. Some of them are more formal with written education and behaviour plans that are very structured, others are less so, with lots of informal conversations and support for your child that is not dictated by process.
Either way, there are three critical factors for a positive relationship:
- A regular, clear and transparent exchange of information between you and your child’s teachers.
- Ensure that mutually agreed goal setting (whether they be big or small) is part of your child’s ongoing development
- Build relationships with other key school staff such as Support Learning Officers, office administrative staff, deputies and principles etc.
What conversations to have and when?
Most schools have established processes for communicating with parents. This is usually done in a variety of different ways: Calls, texts, newsletters, emails, social media –for class groups and projects and in bigger schools through digital portals where everything from homework to information school events are kept.
You’ll need to keep across all the other general messages, but you can and should set up a separate channel for you to talk to your child’s teachers and the school admin.
Always have in the back of your mind that your child is one of many under their care so be realistic in your approach and expectations.
Request a meeting as soon as you have made the decision to enrol your child, and then again just before your child transitions into primary school or secondary school. It’s also worth asking if you can meet your child's new teacher, the year coordinator and school counsellor, as well as any teacher’s aides who will be working with your child. During these meetings discuss how you would like this to work.
Issues arising at school
During the 13 or so years that your child attends school there will be a few challenges along the way. Even the best school can occasionally get things wrong or may overlook something that is important.
Talking through your concerns and documenting them objectively can help to clear up the situation and keep everyone calm. You can also talk through strategies that might help resolve the issue.
It is always much better to maintain a positive working relationship with your child’s school rather than a combative one.
While it is different in each state, there are complaints mechanisms and it is important that families understand their rights under both the state and federal disability education standards.