Although IEPs provide a quick snapshot of the kinds of issues our kids are dealing with in school, they’re the equivalent of a fuzzy, low resolution shot of just a portion of their face. They just don’t capture how your child functions in a classroom, during recess and lunch, or in gym class. That’s why it’s a great idea to introduce your child to her new teacher each year with a letter that fleshes out that picture.
Start with introducing yourself and provide an upbeat description of your wonderful child.
Note that you’re writing in order to make the teacher’s job of getting to know, and help, and educate, your child easier.
List your child’s diagnoses and describe the challenges she faces in the classroom due to her issues. Describe some behaviors the teacher might see and think are problematic. You don’t have to anticipate everything but try to think of the most common problems your child has experienced in the past. For instance, you might note that your daughter typically chews on her hair, zones out when there’s a lot of auditory stimulaton, gets hyper at recess and has trouble calming down when she gets back to class, or doesn’t raise her hand or participat in discussion because she’s afraid that if she’s called on she’ll take so long processing his answer that the kids will laugh at her, and so on. Describe interventions and accommodations that have worked. Note if they’ve been included in the IEP or on a 504 plan.
End on a positive note and make sure to let the teacher know you are working to help your child with her issues and teach her to address them on her own in appropriate ways.
Offer your contact information and availability and invite her to discuss these issues at any time. Let her know you’ll be at parent orientation and conferences. Teachers like to know that you recognize it’s not their job to “fix” your child, and that you’re actively involved in helping your child–especially in helping her to take responsibility for her needs.
Remember that teachers are super busy this time of year, but your child is also busy trying to transition to a new classroom, new teacher, new group of kids, and perhaps a new school. Easing that transition by opening up communication before there’s a problem can be incredibly helpful for everybody.