By Ginny Osewalt
Being on the same page with your child’s paraprofessional can be helpful for everyone involved. Use these strategies to build your relationship.
If your child loves to sing and remembers song lyrics easily, he may learn by listening. Your child’s paraprofessional can use music to go over math facts or remember the names of the nifty 50 United States. If your child is artistic, you can suggest the paraprofessional use color-coding to organize his desk. Pictures and posters can be a great way for your kid to show what he knows.
Your child’s paraprofessional needs to know what inspires your child. If he hates to write but loves Spiderman, the comic book hero might be a great main character in a story-writing assignment. If your child is a sports fanatic but can’t stand math, suggest the paraprofessional use sports scores to teach. Your child’s paraprofessional can use your kid’s favorite athletes’ names in word problems, or calculate their batting averages, or add, subtract, multiply and divide the numbers on their jerseys.
Loud noises or crowded rooms might make your child uncomfortable. The fire alarm can be especially terrible. Your child’s paraprofessional may be able to give your child a heads-up before next fire drill. Or perhaps after sitting through lunch in a noisy cafeteria, your child’s paraprofessional might suggest a trip to the school library. If your child is a picky eater, your child’s paraprofessional can make sure he doesn’t have to sample the apple crisp the class made to celebrate the harvest.
Does your child love puppies? Does he beg to go to animal shelters on weekends? Are visits from Grandpa or the cousins from California just the best? Does he ride his bike the minute homework is finished? If your kid is having a tough day, your child’s paraprofessional can remind him about what makes him happy.
If your kid has a hard time making friends, his paraprofessional might be able to help him practice friendship strategies. Your child’s paraprofessional can help him find and keep friends. When your child’s paraprofessional reports to you, follow up with playdates and maybe even sleepovers. Let your paraprofessional know if your child has had issues with other kids in the past. She can take steps to prevent more problems.
Changes at home, both big and small, can affect your kid in lots of ways. Learning can be even more difficult when your kid is worried or upset. He may act out. Give your child’s paraprofessional a heads up if Grandma is in the hospital, if the family pet has died or if a new baby is on the way. Your child’s paraprofessional is likely to take extra care if he is acting a little “off.”
So your kid was up last night with a coughing spell or maybe even a tummy ache. But he seemed OK by morning, so you sent him to school. By sharing this info with your child’s paraprofessional, you help her understand why things aren’t going so well at school today. It’s also very important to let your child’s paraprofessional know when there are changes in your kid’s medicine or other treatment. She can watch for side effects and even give you important info you can share with your doctor.
A behavior intervention plan she uses in the classroom may be just the ticket for getting your child to do what he needs to do at home. You both can decide how to communicate. Options can include a weekly phone call, a notebook that goes back and forth from home and school, email or texts. But keep in mind that some school districts prefer that all communication be handled by the classroom teacher.
Let your child’s paraprofessional know what you expect for your child. Stay positive. For instance, tell her you want your child to make at least one good friend this year or to like school better than last year. Or maybe you want your kid to be as independent as possible but have a safety net around him so he won’t fall too hard. Be sure you tell her you value her support.
Was your child recently evaluated—either by the school, a private clinic or independent evaluator? It’s important to share the report with your child’s teacher (if the evaluator or your lawyer, if you have one, doesn’t object). Here are suggestions on how to start.
Is your child with learning and attention issues having social or emotional problems at school? Whether you brought concerns to the teacher’s attention or you’re responding to her concerns, talk specifics. Here are some questions to ask.
Ginny Osewalt is dually certified in elementary and special education with 14 years of experience in general education, inclusion, resource room and self-contained settings.
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