By Bob Cunningham
Schools offer a range of services to support students with learning and attention issues. Supports can take the form of people, places, things and actions. Use these questions to make the teacher an ally in getting help for your child.
Try to reach agreement with the teacher about what area should be targeted for improvement. Difficulties in areas like homework and organization are usually obvious to both parents and teachers. They make good areas for opening communication and working toward shared goals. If you agree that a particular academic area, such as reading or math, is a big challenge for your child, you can start there, too.
The goal should be specific. Try something like “My child will hand in completed homework four out of five days this week” instead of “My child will get better at handing in homework.” If the area is an academic skill, try “My child will correctly answer five double-digit addition problems” instead of “My child will learn double-digit addition.”
Discuss which support or service makes the most sense for your child right now. It’s important to talk to the teacher about people, places, things and actions the school will use to help your child. The discussion can also include anything you can do at home to help.
Agree on a time to decide if the services and supports are working. Make the time frame no longer than two weeks. If the goal can’t be achieved in two weeks, choose a more specific goal that can.
If the simple supports and services were a success, you can ask, “What other similar things might help him?” If the plan wasn’t successful, you can ask, “Are there other things at the school that could help him more?” These questions will allow the teacher to comfortably describe supports and services at the school in the context of your child.
If your child with learning and attention issues is struggling in school, you may need to help him more with homework. To be effective, you’ll need to understand how he’s being taught. This way you can help your child within the context of the class and avoid confusing him.
Here are some respectful conversation starters to use with teachers that ask about teaching approaches. You may also be interested in conversation starters for discussing services and supports.
Sometimes it’s not what you say but how you say it. If you want to effectively communicate with your child’s teacher, try these sentence starters.
Bob Cunningham serves as advisor-in-residence on learning and attention issues for Understood.
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Download: Parent-Teacher Conference Worksheet
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