Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Writing a Family Report to Take to School Planning Meetings

Spring is the time of year when lots of school planning meetings are going on. The anxiety for parents goes up before any planning meeting but trying to imagine your child in another classroom with a different teacher is really stressful for many. I am reprinting this blog post because this little exercise will often help parents get through the planning easier.

For many families, preparing a written report for a school-planning meeting will help the parents communicate more effectively. They feel that having a written report puts them on “equal footing”. Many parents find it easier to think about their own priorities before the meeting and so find it easier to make their own priorities understood. Parents report that they are less likely to leave a meeting feeling that their child was not fully understood—with the school-only perspective either giving too optimistic a picture or too negative a picture of their child. In any case, a written report will help school staff see the child as a whole person and remember the parent’s priorities as they finalize and implement a new educational plan. School professional have reported that they feel more able to meet the needs of the child after hearing about the child from the parents perspective in this way. Here are some ideas for topics that might be included:

1. The child’s progress since last year, written from the family perspective and related to the home and community experience (e.g. “My son can tell me what he did at school, now”, “My daughter is potty trained”, “ My child has started to enjoy family gatherings”)

2. The progress that has been made since last year, written from the family perspective and related to school or academics (e.g. “My daughter is starting to read”, “My son loves to ride the bus this year”, “My son is counting everything!”)

3. The effective strategies used during the last year by the family and/or by the school (e.g. “Carol Gray’s Social Stories helped my son with many new situations”, “When we all started using shorter sentences, and singing more, my daughter started paying attention to what we told her”, “We took milk out of our son’s diet and he stopped having digestion problems”.)

4. The strategies tried but found to be less than effective over the last year (e.g. “We found that using time out for behavior problems caused the behaviors to increase”, “We noticed that if we use hand-over-hand to help our son play with toys causes him to avoid the toys that he used to enjoy”, “Our son had no interest when we tried Carol Gray’s Social Stories”.)

5. The significant problems that still exist related to the child’s learning differences as experienced by the family (e.g. “Our son runs into the street if we don’t hold his hand”, “Our son won’t go to bed—it takes us two hours or more to settle him down and then he gets up early.”)

6. The special interests or special events in a child’s life over the last year (e.g. “Our son has developed an interest in horses since starting a riding program”, “Our daughter loves to draw now”, “We have a new dog in the family and our son loves him”)

7. The goals that a parent has for themselves for the next year, (e.g. “ I want to learn more about sensory integration.”, “ I want to be able to explain what PDD-NOS is to my parents”, “I want to learn how to deal more effectively with problem behaviors.”

8. Hopes and Dreams (e.g. “I hope my child will be able to talk to my mother over the phone this next year.” “I hope to be able to have a babysitter stay occasionally next year”, “I hope my child will be able to go to elementary school without a one-on-one classroom aid.”, “I hope my child will be able to drive a car.”)

9. Concerns (e.g. “I am scared that my child will be teased next year in 2nd grade because he is still in diapers”, “I worry that they will hire a one-on-one classroom aid that is not really trained to teach a child like my son”, “I worry that school is just too loud and busy to be an appropriate educational place for my child.”)


Steve said...

We've done something similar for about 4 years now but I definitely like your list and will add a few of these to my own. Almost every time we share our list during the meeting it leads to a good conversation about how to best teach our son. Talking about the list also provides a really easy way to build a rapport with the team.

CC said...

Awesome idea!!! Gosh if I could just get parents to show for their kids meetings I'd be doing well. But for them to bring this? Heaven!

Tahirih said...

I got this idea from a family who had adopted several children with special needs. I have helped several parents write their first Family Report. Having worked in schools, I know that writing a good IEP can be difficult but when parents really participate, it is so much easier.