Guest post: How to communicate with parents of your special needs students

Felicity Dyer is a US-based journalist and parent of a child with special needs. In this guest post she shares her insights and suggestions for teachers on how they can best communicate with parents of special needs students (and vice versa)…

Each day is a different challenge when raising a special needs child but once it is attempted to integrate them into an educational program, an extra set of challenges can arise.

Aside from their social adjustment and the various lessons they will need to get used to, there is the fear of the unknown. Parents often wonder how their child is progressing and what they can do to assist their headway.

Teachers will need parents to step back some so their child can gain essential independence which will inevitably further their education. This means copacetic communication.

For some, gaining ground as a parent-teacher team takes dedicated work while releasing the ego. It requires both parties to forge a bond or at least find a common ground so the most important subject, the child, benefits in the long run.


Before a special needs child begins their schooling, parents and teachers may want to have a private meet-n-greet.

By sitting down and hashing out the goals, expectations and overall concerns about what is best for the child will speak volumes for both parties. Before such a meeting each side should bring in a written down, well thought out template that can be exchanged and discussed.

For parents, it is important to list the practical needs regarding their child’s affliction and for the teacher listing credentials, experience and/or any other pertinent information that may cover a parent’s concerns can be a welcome relief.

Releasing the Reins

The more anyone wants to take control of a situation, the more chances that the situation will fail. Both parents and teachers need to first let go of the reins that they feel are necessary to keep the child in check.

Special needs or not, every child must be given the opportunity to embrace independence. This has been directly related to catapulted advancement on many educational platforms and can be one of the greatest lessons learned across the board.

Here are some reminders that parents and teachers can discuss when addressing the importance of independence for a special needs child:

  • Agree on acceptable choices the child can decide upon themselves.
  • Encourage the child to be their own advocate.
  • Understand that some of the child’s wishes are as important as their expected lessons.
  • Allow the child to become more independent, both at home and in the classroom. If they are coddled too much at home it can stunt their educational learning and visa versa.

Stay Connected

Some parents are so relieved to send their special needs child to a daily educational program they can forget how important their involvement still is.

Yes, it is a welcomed break from the enormous duties bestowed upon the parent but a teacher should remain vigilant in staying connected.

This also applies the other way around. Some parents are excited and insistent on remaining active in their child’s progress while some teachers find this to be too overwhelming. Parents and teachers should come to an agreement on how they will remain in contact. For some, a daily or weekly phone call update is enough while others may need to embrace a more hands-on, yet monitored, involvement.

When An Impasse Arises

Sometimes the parent-teacher relationship can fracture. If this is the case, one of the parties should address the situation before it becomes damaging. This may mean involving a school administrator as a mediator to hash out concerns in a practical way. Whether it is a personality clash or a disagreement regarding the management of the child, by pushing emotions to the side and finding a common ground hopefully the parent-teacher communication can forge on.

Most parents and teachers want the very best for the child. Always keep the communication lines open, even if it requires an extra effort to stay on track. Eventually, if efforts on both sides are consistent, practical and most of all, positive, there’s no reason why the child’s educational experience can’t be the very best that they deserve.


Felicity has obviously written this from a US-perspective, but it seems to involve lots of sensible ideas and insights that are universally relevant. Anything you would add or challenge? Please let us know in the comments or via Twitter…


You can follow Felicity on Twitter @FelicityDryer or visit her health and well-being related blog 


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