Step one is to communicate with parents frequently. It is important to keep the parents of children who are consistently experiencing difficulties informed. If parents are unaware of how their child is performing at school, a proposition of involving the child in special education may be shocking to them, and a conflict between the parents and the teacher may occur.
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Even if a conflict is avoided, it may lead to less developed assistance plans like in Amelia’s case, when ineffective communication led to her parents signing the consent forms without being properly informed. In an effective case, the parents were constantly consulted and involved in the intervention program for their child (Salvia, Ysseldyke, & Witmer, 2012).
Step two is to communicate both the child’s strengths and the child’s weaknesses. One of the more common mistakes for educators of children with special needs is to only communicate the difficulties that the child is experiencing at school. Parents need to be aware of the successes of their children to have a comprehensive idea of their condition. In the ineffective communication case, Amelia’s parents were not informed about her achievements at school, and because of that, they made the decision to switch her to special education without trying to assist her, while in the effective case, they were aware of the issue and attempted to help (Salvia et al., 2012).
Step three is to translate assessment information and team communications as needed. While assessment information is often available to the parents, it may be hard to understand if a lot of jargon is used or if the parents’ primary language is not English. In the ineffective case of Amelia, her parents spoke English but were not familiar with the terminology provided to them. The effective version of the case involved trained professionals that clearly described everything the parents needed to know about the situation, which helped make an informed decision (Salvia et al., 2012).
Step four is to be aware of how cultural differences may impact the understanding of assessment information. The culture of the school may not align with the culture of the family, which could lead to misunderstandings and other issues when communicating with parents. This is why a person who is aware of the student’s culture should be present during meetings with the parents. There were no clear cultural differences mentioned in either Amelia’s case, but it is possible that by not considering the possibility that Amelia’s mother might have time to assist her daughter in reading, they missed an intervention opportunity (Salvia et al., 2012).
Step five is to schedule meetings to facilitate parent attendance. In the modern world, it may be difficult to schedule parent meetings due to a variation in their work schedules. This is why it is important to consider each parent’s availability when scheduling them. Sometimes to facilitate it, the school staff might need to meet at a more convenient location for the parents. The school staff may also need to contact the employer of the parent to make sure they would allow the meeting to happen on a specific date.
In the ineffective communication case, Amelia’s father was not able to attend the meeting because of work, so he was not present during the explanation and signing of papers. In the effective communication case, the meeting occurred on a date favorable to both the school and the parents so that they may be fully informed of the situation (Salvia et al., 2012).
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Step six is to clearly explain the purpose of any assessment activities, as well as the potential outcomes. Families of the students may not be aware of what assessment procedures are used to make decisions about the students. To guarantee full understanding, it is important to tell the parents about all the assessment processes and procedures that were performed. It could also be useful to inform parents of the meeting’s contents beforehand so that they may plan accordingly.
In the ineffective communication case, Amelia’s parents were told that they don’t have to come to the meeting despite its importance, which left them uninformed. In the effective communication case, her parents were informed about the contents beforehand, and their presence helped implement an early intervention method that showed that Amelia could improve her reading ability (Salvia et al., 2012).
Step seven is to communicate using as little technical language as possible. Similarly to the earlier step about the importance of choosing the right language during the meeting, it is important to avoid technical terms that are often used in educational circles. Since the parents need to clearly understand the situation, all the terms should be understood (Salvia et al., 2012).
Step eight is to maintain a solution-focused orientation an avoid pointing blame. In some cases, issues that the student experience in the past or errors made by educators become issues that prevent the future solution of the problem from taking place. It is important to be informed by past experiences, but they should not prevent viable solutions from taking place. In the ineffective communication case, Amelia’s mother is dismissively told that the child clearly has a learning disability before any interventions were implemented. In the effective communication case, her issues with reading only serve to attempt additional training before more serious measures are undertaken (Salvia et al., 2012).
Salvia, J., Ysseldyke, J., & Witmer, S. (2012). Assessment in special and inclusive education (12th ed.). Boston, MA: Wadsworth Publishing.