In my LAST POST, I discussed ways I try to practice good parent communication when working in the clinic. Today I want to switch gears and talk about parent communication in the schools. Communicating with parents in the schools can be challenging, since we don’t interact face to face with them to the same degree we would in a clinic setting. However, here are a few things we can do that I think help our overall quality of communication with parents in the schools.
1. Focus on the positive
Parents know their child is in speech therapy to work on speech and language skills. After all, their child’s language abilities are producing a negative educational impact. The negatives and deficits and delays can run the show, if we’re not careful. So at those IEP meetings, where we should be including the strengths of a student anyway, why not talk about those strengths first? And last, if possible! Or those notes home from speech–why not send one home for the sole purpose of bragging on something great a student did? Our students can do so many things well, and those strengths will be what help them in their areas of struggle.
2. Send home notes on crafts/activities
This is something I recently started doing. When we do something fun in speech like a craft, I like to jot down on the back how the student targeted his or her goals while making it. Sometimes it’s obvious–maybe words or pictures with their speech sound are all over the front. But when it’s not, even writing “followed directions” or “took turns with peers when glueing pieces” can show parents how we specifically targeted their child’s goals in speech. It can also give parents ideas of how to target goals at home, too. When Mom or Dad sees that Johnny asked questions while coloring snowflakes, maybe they’ll be reminded to have Johnny ask questions at the dinner table.
3. Track communication
Any time I interact with a parent, whether answering a question, discussing a student’s progress, or trying to set up an upcoming meeting, I try to document it. I like having it all in one place, like this FREEBIE I made that I can stick in each student’s file. Not only can it be helpful to refer to when continuing a discussion with a parent or including parent concerns when writing an IEP, but legally, I feel better having parent contact, especially things like attempting to contact a parent for a meeting, documented.
Communication with parents in the schools is not one-size-fits-all. I like to think of it as multimodal communication–using whatever combination of phone calls, emails, notes home and face to face meetings that works! Payoffs include good rapport with parents, a continuation of therapy beyond the speech room, and better outcomes for our students.
I’d love to know your tips and tricks for parent communication at school!