When he was in elementary school, one of the Navigator’s teachers asked for letters from both the students and their parents as homework before the start of the school year.
The Navigator produced a scant three paragraphs as required, talking about how he hopes to learn about dinosaurs and chemistry. The letter we wrote was a little different.
We decided to use suggestions found in a blog post on Special Happens, focused on tips for writing a letter to a child’s special needs teacher. [This blog is currently being revised and the post is unavailable.]
While out letter was to a general education teacher, we used some of the components to structure our letter, including describing what the Navigator was excited about for the coming year, behaviors the teacher was likely to see when the Navigator was feeling strong emotions, and the kinds of language he has heard as part of his special education work.
While I always requested an IEP meeting at the beginning of the school year, I really liked being able to do the letter. It was more personal and less clinical than the language of the IEP, with specific suggestions for managing the kinds of behaviors his teacher was likely to see.
It was something I could see doing each school year with all of the Navigator’s teachers:
Dear Navigator’s Teacher
We are very excited that the Navigator is going to be in your fourth grade class this year. The Navigator is most looking forward to being in class with his friends.
Some things to be aware of are that when the Navigator is feeling overwhelmed he can get very verbal and silly, or he might not be able to talk at all. In the last circumstance, he may take on a dinosaur persona, moving around the classroom walking like a dinosaur.
This is your cue that he is experiencing strong feelings, like excitement or anxiety. When I see this behavior, I will ask him what he is excited about or nervous about. Engaging him like this helps him manage these feelings.
It is also helpful to use language he is used to hearing related to his behavior, such as “unexpected behavior” and “iceman” and “glassman” behavior. His Speech Teacher and his IEP Case Manager can explain these in detail when you talk with them.
We are available for questions and to talk about how to make things better for the Navigator via email or in person, whatever works best for you.
We are looking forward to a great year!
What would you write in your child’s letter to their teacher?