Understanding Your Child at School

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By Aya Ninomiya

Aya is an occupational therapy consultant for globally mobile families with special needs kids. Is your child set up for success at their international school? How will you set up your new home to best meet your child’s needs? Are you feeling overwhelmed to rebuild a system of support in a new location? Aya is the problem solver and coordinator you are going to want to take with you on every move. Find out how you and Aya can set your family up for success on her website:  www.ayaninomiya.com


“You know your child best.”

A few months into the school year, your child storms in through the door with unwelcomed news from school. 

Your response could vary. You may hear yourself saying something along the lines of… “Really! Why would they do that?” Then, you hear your child out and come to a resolution at home. Supermom/Superdad has defused the fire… again 🙂

If you find yourself triggered and saying something closer to… “AGAIN?!” You recognize that you need to take time to cool off. Start noting the other times your child came home with a similar story. Then, talk to your partner about whether you need to touch base with your child’s teacher. 

In either scenario, you caught yourself in the act and put yourself in a position so that you know your child best. Well played!

You know you don’t know the whole story… yet.

If you find yourself feeling out of loop with what’s going on at your child’s school, you are not alone. 

Many parents (out of a good place in their heart) have doubts for when it’s appropriate to reach out to the teacher:

  • I don’t want to waste their time. They must be too busy.
  • I’m worrying too much again.
  • This will solve itself over time.
  • I’ll get in touch the next time it happens again.
  • He seems okay now. It must be alright.

If you have had thoughts similar to any of the above, please reach out to the teacher. I am sure that the teacher will be glad to hear from you. And you’ll be left wondering why you didn’t reach out any sooner.

Designing a smart communication plan with the school teacher:

Opening the door to your home and being willing to share your concerns will put you and the teacher at the starting line. Read this article to learn strategies on how to build a strong home-school connection for your child.

For a child with special needs, it’s worth organizing how to best support your child do their best by figuring a few things with the teacher:

  • What communication lines are available? — email, phone, text, school app
  • Which method is the least stressful for both sides? — a higher level of interaction needs to feel intuitive and efficient for both the sender and receiver
  • How often is enough? 
  • How do you know when this level of communication is no longer necessary? — set a 2-week trial period and an evaluation date before a long break to review its effectiveness. You may need to change the plan if it’s not working.

Every teacher designs their own communication plan with families of all learners in their class. Let’s make sure that there is one that works for your child that aligns with everyone’s availability.

For any communication to work, it can’t be left one-sided.

But without a base, there is no touching base…

It is every trusted adult’s duty to set up a secure and safe learning space for children.

Invest time and effort at the beginning of the school year to set healthy communication boundaries. Build trust for real talk. 

If you have a home care plan or support team, you can share their contact information with school to quickly touch base about strategies that have worked and not worked in the past. 

Same but different

Every new school year will bring in change. It’s worth the additional effort at the start to build a foundation. Share your child’s learner’s profile and portfolio of work from the past year. 

Discussing the pain points of the last school year builds a solid base for what your teacher might expect to see in the classroom. Teachers don’t need to be surprised once it’s too late. Let the teacher know what they could expect. And of course, plan for regular contact. 

A communication protocol for requesting a meeting outside of regular contact:

Because you took the time at the beginning of the school year to set the tone, (Great job, Mom & Dad!) an irregular email won’t have to feel so awkward. 

So, when you need to request a meeting outside of your communication plan, there is already a foundation of trust with a touch of urgency to help your child get out of a tough moment and move forward.

  1. Define your child’s roles at school
    • They are at least a student, peer or classmate, and a friend. Others might include athlete, artist, musician, student counsel member, etc. 
  1. Is your child struggling with something related to one role? Or across all roles?
    • This helps you get closer to identifying whether the issue is related to an activity, place, social situation, or mood. Your regular point of contact can help you connect some of these dots.
  1. Share your observations at home and why you’re worried
    • What trends or change in behavior have you seen at home? How long has this been going on? Has the teacher observed these changes also at school? Share where your concerns are coming from and start looking for possible causes. 
  1. Draw up an action plan together
    • The teacher may have had similar observations at school or is now aware to observe with keen eyes. Decide whether you and the teacher will continue monitoring, investigate further, reach out to a specialist at school or outside of school.

AND STAY – IN – TOUCH!

It takes a village...

In the world of education, there’s no teacher that wants to see a kiddo struggling. They might be busy but they’re busy setting up the whole class for learning including your child. 

If the struggle is out of the teacher’s hands, it’s up to the bigger school community and yourself to come up with a way to best support your child’s success with learning.

It’s a whole community effort to not let your child fall through the cracks. 

Because with a transparent and creative team, there is always a way to move forward.


*all gifs retrieved from www.giphy.com