Updated: Aug 25, 2022
During our July 2022 parent support group with PHP, we were very lucky to feature long-time REEL parent Emon Reynolds, who spoke about her strategies for ensuring a strong start to the school year for her twice-exceptional children. As a parent of four kids from ages 10 to 17, she shared helpful advice, tips and wisdom for parents of 2e learners of all ages. We’ve captured some of the highlights below.
Before jumping into the school year, review these powerful mantras; revisit them whenever you need a boost throughout the year
Take a deep breath.
I am not alone.
My child is not broken.
This year can be better.
Grace and mercy everyday.
Always ask! The worst they can do is say “No.”
What I learn will help my child.
I am enough!
Create a one-pager about your child for their new teachers. Keep the document brief—remember, this is not your last conversation, but a starting point. Be sure to include a photo of your child happily involved with one of their interests; it engages teachers’ interest and sparks their curiosity to learn more. In your one-pager, reflect on what worked and didn’t work last year. Make sure to include the child’s input, because teachers don’t always have the bandwidth to seek each child’s perspective. If your child has trouble writing their portion on their own, you can dictate for them or even record them and then transcribe it yourself. Share your child’s diagnosis if you have one so that the educators know who your child is and can put certain behaviors in perspective, especially if things may escalate. It has helped my child learn to trust others when someone can see them and respond to them for who they truly are and not the misinterpretation of their behavior. However, check in with your child to see what they think is okay to share with their teachers.
Email the student one-pager to each of your child’s teachers. Explain how your child’s challenges may impact their class specifically. For example: “When my child gets very excited about a science lab, you may see all of that energy come out as disruptive behavior. To calm them down, have them take a one minute break outside.” “In English, when my child is very excited about a book, it can be very difficult for them to put it down. It will help you and them if you give them several warnings before transitions.”
Tour the school and ask to meet your teachers before the school year begins. You can add this to your IEP as well.
If your child has an IEP, I’ve found IEP meetings are often more helpful than parent teacher conferences especially in high school; schedule them as often as you need them throughout the year. Think about holding an IEP meeting 30 days into the school year to make sure the year is starting off in the right direction. In secondary schools, there is a tendency for schools to tell parents not to intervene and to let the child be independent; however, 2e kids may need more guardrails at the start of the year until they’re ready for more independence. Don’t feel bad about asking for time for your kid! IEPs in secondary school allow for all teachers to come together—including art, PE, etc.—that don’t always get to learn how your child’s challenges affect their classes. For instance, with today’s academic expectations, writing challenges can appear in any class, even PE and electives.
Build a positive, productive relationship with your child’s teachers so that when you approach them they don’t see you as always coming to them with a problem or asking for things. Remember that teachers have a lot of classroom challenges in addition to learning how to support your child. Good implementation comes from having good collaboration and communication.
Find your allies—for instance, the person on campus (librarian, front office manager, PE teacher, case manager, resource officer) that your child feels comfortable going to in a crisis, who understands your child, can speak to teachers on their behalf when necessary, who can give them a “safe space” to take a break and who your child can share wins with. It only takes one person to make a huge difference!
And remember to share your child’s voice. Include them whenever it’s appropriate. It’s their journey. Their input is so important.
Please note this caveat from Emon: These suggestions work best when you and your child are not in crisis mode, not in the middle of new assessments, or already know that you’ll be leaving the school because the environment isn’t a fit for your child.
Related REEL event recordings:
Print out these mantras and keep them nearby: