5 Ways Parents Can Support Special Education Teachers
In many schools across North America, special education teachers get the short end of the stick when it comes to support for their classrooms. With typically low student to teacher ratio, parent participation is often missing throughout the year because there is a smaller pool of people from which to pull.
We are still in the age where there are a significant number of self-contained classrooms, and these rooms usually run low on supplies and support throughout the year because they are not connected to a grade level where resources are shared. Here are five ways you can support the special education teachers in your school to give them the extra help they need to get through the year.
1. Become a Room Parent
There have been many years that I have just gone without any room parents. I don’t fault my students’ families. They are usually stretched thin as it is. If your child receives special education services and is included in general education for most (or all) of the day, consider splitting time with another parent to provide support. Special education classrooms often will need coverage for their rooms in order for them to attend school-wide events or special luncheons. Special classrooms appreciate any volunteers that can come and help with projects or school events.
2. Donate Supplies
Supplies like tissues, hand sanitizer, and cleaning wipes typically go fast in the special education classroom. One way to help is to find out if a special needs classroom in your school is running low on anything. With over ten years as a special education teacher, I have gotten used to asking for supplies from anyone who will listen. It is always a welcome surprise for someone to drop off some tissues and give a kind word or encouragement.
3. Join PTA
This is one of the most important ways to help special education teacher and their students. Some Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) already have a committee set up to think about including families of children with special needs in school wide activities. If your school does not have one, suggest it at a general assembly meeting or email the president of the school PTA. Part of PTA’s mission is to include of all students so it aligns with their mission at the national level.
4. Communicate Often
I know that there are some teachers who get frustrated with parents who “over-communicate,” and I suppose everyone has a certain comfort level. I have found that the parents with whom I have the best professional relationship are the ones with who I communicate with the most.
It is important for the classroom teacher to know how things are going at home and how the family’s evening or weekend went (especially for students who are working on functional communication). Communicate with your teacher about things that are out of the ordinary, you never know how things will play out in the classroom and that information might be helpful.
5. Say “Thank You”
National Teacher Appreciation Week is held in May every year (some schools have a different week designated) and schools and parents take the time to thank their teachers for doing a great job with their children. Unless your school is the exception, special education teachers often will get left out of the planning of the week. This is usually because the room parents are the ones who coordinate gifts, encouraging cards, treats or other “thank yous.”
Since special education classrooms don’t always have room parents, teachers feel funny about organizing these things for themselves. So, year after year, they simply go without it. This may come as surprise to you but if you don’t believe me, ask a special education teacher in your school. So even if your child is not in a special education classroom, a “thank you” to a special education teacher goes a long way.
What other ways can you support special education teachers at your child’s school? Share them with us in the comments section below.