During January we have been talking a lot about behaviors and strategies for school. One of the most important aspects of handling behaviors appropriately and professionally is communicating those behaviors to your students’ parents or guardians.
Our students’ parents need accurate and timely information for a wide range of reasons: to appropriately reinforce behaviors at home, to report to medical professionals patterns or spikes in behaviors, and, most importantly, because they have trusted their most precious child (or young adult) to you for the day and they need to feel confident that they know what occurred, for better or worse. The way that you communicate behaviors to your student’s parents will be influenced by many things: your caseload and their level of need, the amount of your time that is realistically available, and your students’ parents’ preferences.
I’ve found that collaborating at the very beginning of the year with your students’ parents’ as to what information they need is key. Some parents are especially concerned with restroom activity for medical reasons. Some parents are especially concerned with food eaten or physical activity. Most parents are especially concerned with the occurrence of maladaptive behaviors, when, where, and with who they occured, and any further antecedent/behavior/consequence information you can provide. This team approach to shaping behavior is key when real change is needed. Once you know what information you are going to communicate with parents, you must decide how. Let’s look at a few options.
Anecdotal Emails or Written Logs
This is one way of getting information to parents that I have used myself at times, but has several drawbacks. Comprehensive information may not be given if we rely on our memory and ability to summarize. We may also struggle to stick to facts and start to cloud the situation with our own opinions. This is also an especially time consuming way to go about relaying information and I know that I, for one, am always short on time! Writing or typing a paragraph (or page) to attempt to include all of the pertinent information is a challenge for the most seasoned teacher.
One Size Fits All Daily Sheet
This is probably the most widely used type of daily/behavior communication. There are lots of positives to this approach, which is why I have used this method for most of my teaching career. For me, this is the most time effective. The ability to circle choices, include lots of information, and report details on the same aspects of the day consistently. This takes the guesswork out of what to include and you can get help from paraprofessionals filling out the sheets if it is within your school district’s guidelines.
Student Completed Communication Sheet
This is an awesome option if your students are able to reflect on their day and complete these communication logs. I love how this encourages self awareness and short term memory recall. I have used these in a middle school setting with a variety of independence levels. I also really like how there is an opportunity for the student to fill in the teacher about how their time at home went. This encouragement for students to be more responsible and communicative with both their parent and teacher is a great option. The Autism Helper Home School Communication Packet is a great one!
Individualized Student Behavior Reporting
In my current position, I use a variety of communication sheets for a variety of students. I have students with very specific behaviors and parents who are incredibly detailed in their data compilation. I have other students who exhibit anxiety and it is those antecedent type behaviors that we are seeing most frequently. Other students have numerous aggressive behaviors that we track extremely closely, so our data sheets that go home have included frequency, duration, and intensity measures. Because I have a smaller than average caseload, I am able to collaborate with parents to create specialized data sheets and refine those as needed.
Electronic or Automatic Reporting
An even easier option for teachers with larger caseloads or more traditional classroom types, are behavior apps that can send updates to parent’s emails based on the behaviors observed at school. One program that I have experience with is Review360. In this program, teachers can enter behavioral data in the app in real time and this info can be sent to the parent at the end of each day. There’s also the widely used ClassDojo app where students can earn or lose points and parents can be set up to receive alerts electronically. These options are less personalized, but would be less concentrated time necessary for the teacher on a daily basis.
You have to decide what is going to be best for you, as the teacher, along with your collaborative partners in this world of special education, your student’s parents. This will most likely involve compromise and understanding of both of your needs and constraints. Ultimately, we are doing all of this to help fantastic students improve and grow within our classroom and in their home environments. Communication between those two environments is essential and key to success! I’d love to hear your success stories, either finding great communication solutions, or the breakthroughs that happened as a result.