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My Life as a Sped Teacher: Parents

I have been employed in the field of education for over 7 years and have dual licensure in special/general education as well as a BA.

This article will break down some of the most common challenges that teachers may face when working with the parents of special education students and the best ways to address them.

This article will break down some of the most common challenges that teachers may face when working with the parents of special education students and the best ways to address them.

As a special education teacher of five years, I have encountered many challenges and celebrations. In observation of these events, I have noticed that a majority of these challenges involve students' parents.

This article goes over five of the most common challenges concerning working with the parents of special education students and the best ways to address them.

Parents That Coddle

These parents think that their child can not do anything without "help". They think that just because the student has a disability means that their child should have special treatment and easy assignments. Their perspective is often muddied by the need to make sure that their child never wants for anything. One can often identify these parents according to these criteria:

  • They do the homework for their child.
  • They ask for accommodations above and beyond necessity.
  • They make numerous excuses for their child.

You may be wondering, "How do I work with these types of parents?"

Well, in my experience as a special education teacher, there are several effective strategies:

  1. Ask the parent to let the student try to do one assignment on their own. This will help the guardian understand that their child is capable of learning and showing what they know. It will also ensure that the student understands that they are held accountable for doing the work on their own.
  2. Send weekly/biweekly progress monitoring emails to the parent so that they are fully aware of their student's progress.
  3. If their is a dispute, make sure that you document EVERYTHING.
  4. Finally, make sure that the parent understands what the LRE (Least Restrictive Environment) is and why it is important that the student have the same opportunities and access as their same-age peers.

Parents That Think Their Kid Is Dumb

Parents that think their kid is dumb and will never amount to anything are numerous. I remember a student (We'll call her Amy) a few years back. Her grandmother (guardian) thought that Amy was dumb. Amy did not like to do her homework because she thought that she would just "screw it up". During homeroom one day, I put a few math problems on the whiteboard. She completed the problems on the board and asked, "Did I screw them up?". She got all of them correct. After I told her this, the look in her eyes was priceless. She was used to her grandmother calling her dumb and not believing in her.

The power of words is not to be taken lightly.

One can often identify parents that think their kid is dumb according to these criteria:

  • They often voice their low expectations.
  • They give up on helping their student learn rather quickly.
  • They don't take conversations with teachers seriously.

Parents who think their kid is dumb are very similar to parents who coddle (see above). These parents typically have low expectations and don't understand that their child is capable. They just might need to do things a little bit differently.

Parents That Think They're Your Boss

The type of parents that like to tell teachers what to do are very challenging to work with. However, there is hope. These parents often feel helpless. They try to take control by telling teachers what to do. They are simply frustrated.

One can often identify parents who try to take control according to these criteria:

  • They call frequently and occasionally yell over the phone.
  • They ask for accommodations, services, and supports above and beyond necessity.
  • They make numerous excuses for their child.

You may be wondering, "How do I work with these types of parents?"

Well, in my experience as a special education teacher, there are several effective strategies:

  1. Schedule collaborative meetings or calls where the general education teacher, an administrator, and the special education teacher collaborate on the strengths, weaknesses, and progress of the student. Make sure that the parent has plenty of time to voice their opinions, concerns, etc.
  2. Send weekly/biweekly progress monitoring emails to the parent so that they are fully aware of their student's progress.
  3. If there is a dispute, make sure that you document EVERYTHING.
  4. Finally, make sure that the parent understands what the LRE (Least Restrictive Environment) is and why it is important that the student have the same opportunities and access as their same-age peers.

Parents That Won't Listen/Follow Through

One can often identify these parents according to these criteria:

  • They typically make promises they don't keep.
  • They are passive and try to avoid you.
  • They think that their child doesn't need help/support to succeed.

You may be wondering, "How do I work with these types of parents?"

Strategies:

  1. Emphasize the importance of reinforcing the strategies learned at school within the home (especially for students with organizational or social skill deficits).
  2. Send weekly/biweekly progress monitoring emails to the parent so that they are fully aware of their student's progress.
  3. Make sure that there is consistent collaboration with the parent over the phone
  4. Finally, make sure that the parent understands that consistency is very important. When kids know what to expect and what is expected of them, they have less anxiety and can more easily focus.

Parents Who Are in Denial

This is a tricky one. Parents who are in denial refuse to accept the fact that their child has a disability.

Identifying these parents is quite easily. You can start by reviewing these criteria:

  • They don't want their child to attend resource room classes or receive any special accommodations.
  • They are frustrated with their student's lack of progress, yet refuse to let them receive the help that they need.
  • They are challenging to communicate with.

Communication with these parents must be delicate and empathetic:

  1. Make sure that the parent understands their child's disability and the effect it has on their ability to participate in school.
  2. Show the test data: Parents who are in denial need evidence to convince them otherwise. Providing them with a portfolio of work samples, test scores, and triennial testing data can help them see the impact of their child's disability
  3. Communication is key: Make sure that you provide email updates and call the family to build rapport. Having a trusting relationship with the parent or guardian can be valuable when advocating for supports and services.

Parents That Yell

These parents are challenging to work with. Nevertheless, you will most likely have to work with a few if you haven't already.

They are typically drama kings/queens who feel helpless and frustrated. It is helpful to do the following when conversing with these types of parents:

  1. Have a witness when conversing.
  2. Gauge their mood before diving into touchy subjects.
  3. Be on their side and communicate it: Help them understand that you are required to follow the rules of the district/school/etc., but understand how they feel. It is important to build a positive relationship with these parents.
  4. Take notes during conversations so that you have a record.

Another thing to keep in mind is that these types of parents typically need to vent. Let them vent. This will help the calm down to a point where they are actually able to collaborate.

Key Takeaways

So, no matter what types of parents you run into within the world of education, remember to:

  1. Communication is Key: Have a good professional relationship with them.
  2. Cover Your Butt: Remember to document everything and have a witness when possible

Please share your experiences with challenging parents in the comments section to help your fellow educator.

Thank you!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Miranda Hoepfner