It is my hope that parents and school districts will work together to build partnerships in order to do what is best for the child. I believe this can and will happen if all parties are able to have meaningful conversations. Conversations help you understand what the other person is thinking, help you address problems, and help you develop workable solutions. The conflict and the conversations are what build the relationship.
As a Consultant, I help families of children with special needs effectively communicate with their school districts. My goal is to help them develop a meaningful, working relationship with their district. I coach them on how to have evidence based discussions that describe what the child needs in order to be successful. When conversations are transparent, parents and their school district can discover how to work together to ensure the child’s success.
By teaching parents how to have meaningful conversations, they learn to frame their concerns. They learn to use data versus emotions to explain their thinking and describe what they believe their child needs. It’s not about what they want; it’s about what their child needs.
Districts also need to hone their conversational skills. It is important for the staff to present objective information to parents rather than make subjective statements such as ‘ … is making good progress’ or ‘…. is struggling to stay focused.’ These statements cannot be measured or observed. Conversations need to use data to explain the child’s performance or behavior. The staff needs to support their thinking with evidence and then ask questions that will help them understand the parents’ perception.
Having deep and momentous conversations will enable both parents and districts to gain an understanding of the other person’s perspective. This can divert the situation from becoming adversarial. Through deep conversations trust will emerge. With trust, partnerships will be formed and everyone will be working together on behalf of the child.