“The tables have turned.” That one thought ran through my head a million times as I drove home from a disappointing meeting with my son’s teacher. I thought back to 6 years ago when I was the one sitting in the teacher’s chair, holding conferences with parents, comforting them and supporting them in their roles as we discussed ways to promote success for their child.
Now, literally the table has turned and I find myself sitting on the opposite side. I never would have imagined after 7 years of being involved in Special Education that I would be here now. It is moments like these that I feel my previous experiences with teaching have prepared me to be where I am today, hoping for school success for my sensory kid.
What I’ve Learned
Now that my role is reversed, I am able to see parent teacher conferences from a much different perspective now that I play the role of the parent. Now that my son is the student being discussed, I am certainly more emotionally involved. I find it frustrating now to deal with hurdles that I never before had to face. The hurdles now are;
My son is in general education class but has special needs
He is in a class with 26 kids… my son is just ONE kid
He isn’t defiant– he simply doesn’t do what he is asked…so he isn’t enough of a problem to receive extra help, but just enough of a problem to be a pain to his teacher
The teacher can’t take large amounts of time or make special accommodations for just one child
He is in public school where things are the way they are, and will likely stay that way
His teacher simply doesn’t understand sensory processing disorder
As I sat pondering the realities and feeling hopeless, the advice I previously gave parents now served as a great reminder to me of how to approach the process.
The PARENT is the Expert of the Child-
It is true, parents know their children best. Teachers see a different side of kid, and although a teacher sees a child for 6 hours each day, it still doesn’t amount to the amount of time spent raising that child for all the years prior to entering that classroom. A parent knows the likes/dislikes, quirks, personality traits, and preferences better than anyone else ever will. Knowing the personality and character traits of a child helps create a complete picture of the child’s strengths and areas of improvement. The picture is incomplete without the expert view of the parent.
It Takes a Team to Create Success
Although the parent knows the child best, a teacher sees a side of the child that likely the parent never sees. THe teacher knows how that child acts in a school setting. Things such as responding to non-parental adult authority, interactions with peers, ability to follow a classroom routine, etc. are things a teacher knows best.
As a teacher I knew all my efforts in the classroom were short-term unless they were duplicated outside of the classroom. Now as a parent I feel the same is true. Although I feel I prepared my son to recognize and respond to his internal sensory needs at home, unless his teacher knows about and supports those efforts, my work is worth nothing at school.
Communication is Key
As a parent I don’t want to be overly annoying (a little annoying maybe, but not overly annoying). As a teacher, though, I know communication is important to combining both the home and school perspectives and creating a holistic picture of how a child is doing. I don’t know everything, nor does she. Only together can we create an environment and routine that will encourage success for my child.
Progress is a Process
Change doesn’t happen overnight. I can’t expect any changes, whether it be with the school, the teacher, a diagnosis, or an IEP to happen overnight. Progress takes time and it comes as the previous points are understood and utilized.
As I drove home from that discouraging meeting, my heart was lifted remembering the advice I used to give. Maybe my words were comforting to a parent whose child was in my class when I was a teacher, that I’ll never know. Now that the tables have turned, I am grateful to have my own advice to comfort me in this difficult time of supporting my sensory kid and working towards his success at school.
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