Our sons attend a vibrant new community day school in Rockland County, New York. With smaller classes than in the public school, energetic and motivated teachers and staff, and a friendly and supportive parent body spanning reform, conservative and modern orthodox observances, our community is unique. With fewer than 100 families enrolled, the whole student body knows one another, and every parent has a voice in shaping the future of the school. Because of the small size of the school, not only is parent involvement encouraged — it is necessary for the school to succeed.
As a mom working outside of our home, I have found different ways to help build our school during non-school hours. But one of the ways I hope to contribute this year and in the future has to do with our children with special needs.
The beginning of the school year is a perfect example. I would like to help the school better support our children. I find that the back-to-school process is much more stressful when it comes to R than for our younger son, B. With B, we gather his backpack and lunchbox, and send him off on the first day knowing that we will meet the teachers a few weeks later to find out about what the teachers have in store for the year. But with R, it is not so simple.
There is a fair amount of coordination and communication that needs to occur between the teachers, the specialists, the external supports we have in place for R, and anyone else who comes in and out of R’s daily life, from the school secretary to security guard. R thrives on structure and predictability, so it is important that he knows what to expect, from his class schedule to what the teachers expect of him to the consequences in place. R should have consistent visuals and consistent behavior management tools applied during his day.
Right now, there is no set process for making this happen at the boys’ school. We consider ourselves lucky to have had an overwhelmingly positive experience at our sons’ school, but it is new, and kinks and learning experiences abound. When R was in a public school setting, the “team” coordination occurred behind the scenes. With years of institutional knowledge and experience with kids like R under their belts, the teachers and support system put in place what they determined would work as a starting point and told us about it, but it was a collaborative process that involved everyone. Perhaps we took this for granted at the time, but now we look back on that with such appreciation!
In R’s current school setting, we have lots of discussions with individuals, but no true “team” meeting. I thought perhaps we could have one this year before the beginning of school, but it became apparent that this type of meeting is unrealistic when you are dealing with teachers and specialists with different work schedules. Not everyone is full time, not everyone is available – and all are crucial pieces to our puzzle. Everyone could (and did) make time to speak with me, everyone knows that a team meeting is a great idea, but to have everyone together in one room, at one time — which is really what would be beneficial — seems impossible.
Although R began 2nd grade without the benefit of a team meeting, he walked into what we know is a loving and warm environment committed to his success. His teachers and therapists have since collaborated and, with our feedback, put in place a thoughtful plan for working with R. I haven’t given up on having a team meeting next summer before school starts and I’m open to all suggestions for how to make that happen in years to come. I know that having a formalized process for team meetings will help R as well as all other students with special needs.
This post is a part of our new monthly series called “A Parent’s Perspective”. The author, Benay Josselson, is an attorney who lives in New City, New York with her husband and two children.