From their first day in a classroom until the day they graduate, your child will probably spend more time at school than anywhere else. It’s natural to want to see for yourself how your child’s days are going. And you probably want to get to know the teachers, school staff, other children, and parents who are part of that community. Sometimes, you might just want to visit the classroom to see your child’s special education services and accommodations in action. But how can you do this in your busy schedule?
Other parents of children with disabilities or special health care needs have found that relationships are key to building a community that supports their child at school and beyond. For example, you might hear about school events or after school activities that might be fun for your child. You and your child’s teachers can learn from each other – maybe some supports are working great for your child and others aren’t. And Admissions, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) meetings might be easier if you’ve had casual conversations with your child’s team during the year.
From active volunteering to just visiting your child’s classroom, there are lots of ways to build relationships with the people at your child’s school. We have ideas and suggestions below that come from other parents, and one is bound to fit your schedule.
Volunteering at the school is one way to connect with your child’s teacher and school staff. You can help out and get a chance to check in on how things are going. This can make it easier for all of you to work together to support your child.
If you work outside the home, you can try to take 1 or 2 days off to work in your child’s school or go on a field trip. If you can’t take time off during the day, there are other ways to volunteer.
When your child is younger, there are ways to volunteer directly in their classroom or do things that support classroom activities. Teachers have a lot on their plates, and most will be glad for your help so they can focus more on their students. Here are some ideas:
Even if your schedule lets you be at the school during the day sometimes, volunteering in the classroom might not always work. It might distract your child or other students. And as your child grows up and leaves elementary school, they might not want a parent there. But you can still ask the teacher for ideas on ways to stay connected.
Many of these things happen outside school hours or outside the classroom and still give you a chance to get to know other parents and school staff.
Public schools must have ways for parents to volunteer if they get Title I funds, a certain kind of government funding. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) also says that there should be a plan for parents to be a part of their child’s education.
But sometimes, schools might make it hard for you to visit your child’s classroom or be a volunteer. Usually, this is because they want to protect other students’ privacy or don’t want parents to disrupt the class. If this is the case, you still have the right to visit your child’s classroom. Here are some things you can do:
The staff and teachers at your child’s school are doing their best, but sometimes you just have to have a difficult conversation with them to make sure your child gets what they need. If you can take the time to build good relationships in the school community, these conversations will probably go much better and help your child get the most out of their time at school.
Volunteering isn’t for everyone. There are lots of reasons why it might not work for you: work schedules, taking care of your family, or maybe you just don’t want to do it.
But there are other ways to connect with people at your child’s school – some simple and some a little more complicated. You can: