One thing I see posted lots in the various autism groups I belong to on Facebook is parents struggling with ineffective communication at their children’s school or nursery. While some schools are fantastic at sharing information with parents and other professionals involved in the child’s care and wellbeing, others, sadly, fall a long way short, leaving parents feeling frustrated, unheard and pushed out of their own child’s education. So how can you ensure that your child’s teacher is telling you all you need to know about those hours when they’re not with you? Here’s how to improve communication with your child’s teachers.
It seems simple, and even too obvious, but just maybe your child’s teacher doesn’t realise that you need a little more information that the typical parent. There’s no harm in just asking them to tell you what you need to know at the end of the day.
A popular method of communication, especially for children who aren’t verbal or aren’t able to talk about their day, is the home-school diary. Tink has one of these, and her teacher will write in anything important she needs to tell me, or sometimes it’s just to let me know she had a good day or ate all of her lunch! I can also use the diary to let her know if Tink’s under the weather, or if she has any appointments, or just that she wants to wear her trainers instead of her school shoes! However, one issue that I’ve seen with diaries, particularly with older children, is that they can become aware that things are being written about them, and may not like this.
One way to combat children’s awareness of being written about is by using email. You could ask the teacher if she or he is able to send a quick one each day, or perhaps a longer, more detailed email at the end of the week, depending on how urgently you need to know what’s been happening!
If your child’s school has it, an online diary can be a great method of communication between school and home. Teachers are able to upload notes, photos and videos which parents can then view online or on an app on their phone. Parents can also upload to the diary to share what their child has been doing at home. Popular in nurseries for a while, more schools are now using this method. Tink’s school are trialling it and I’m excited to see how well it works for us, seeing as she rarely tells us anything about her day!
It may be that you or your child’s teacher prefer not to rely on technology, but would rather speak face-to-face. If so, ask if it’s possible to arrange regular meetings – once a week, for example – so that you can chat openly about any important issues.
If you don’t collect your child from school, (as in they go to an after-school club or a childminder collects them, not just that you leave them there all night!) perhaps the teacher would be open to giving you a quick call at the end of each school day, to keep you updated.
It shouldn’t need saying, but sometimes you really do have to be the squeaky wheel in order to get the oil! If your child has difficulty communicating, it’s imperative that you and their teacher work together to find the best way to communicate. Even if your child is verbal, it shouldn’t be assumed by teachers that they will go home and chat happily about their day, or tell you if there’s something upsetting them. Some children are selectively mute, and find talking about school at home, or about home at school, very difficult – impossible, even. So, to improve communication with your child’s teachers, parents often need to take the first step and ask the obvious questions! Hopefully, both parents and teachers will learn new ideas and strategies from each other to give the child the best possible chance at school.
If you’d like to join a lovely, safe community made up of parents and teachers, aimed at improving communication and relationships between the two, then head on over to the group that I run with Victoria from Starlight and Stories: Autism Support For Parents And Teachers UK.