Building Student Success Through Relationships - The Autism Helper

Building Student Success Through Relationships

Out of the million jobs you have as an educator, building relationships is one of the most important.

I know this seems beyond the scope of your job creating IEP goals and academic success, but it’s just as important. We build relationships throughout our school community, but often the relationships we build with our students, our parents, and general education teachers determine the success our students experience.

Relationships With Our Students

Creating relationships with our students may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s something I encourage you to give thought to. When something is going on behaviorally with a student, relationships are where I start investigating. Are you reinforcing for the student? Do you know their interests? Do you take time to do fun things with the student and not just work? Think about it this way; Imagine you go to your grandma’s house every day for dinner. And every day she pulled out frozen TV dinner for you to eat. Some taste okay, but most are nasty! How excited are you to go to your grandma’s house every day? It’s the same way with our students! If all we do is demand work and never build.a relationship, our students’ behavior will eventually show it. Especially if we only give attention when something goes wrong. When you take time to build a relationship with a student you’ll never regret the time you put in. In fact, it will show in every aspect of the child. From academics to behavior, your relationship with your students will only help them achieve even more.

Relationships with Parents

You know as well as I do that having parent support can make or break our school year. When we don’t have that support from home, everyone suffers, most of all the student. Building relationships with parents is incredibly important. First, always remember your student is someone’s baby! Those parents are trusting you with their baby. For any average parent that is hard, but being a special needs parent adds an extra layer of difficulty and trust to the mix. Here are some ways I work on building relationships with parents:

  • Encourage communication. I always stress that little things can become big things quickly. Tell me when it’s a little thing and it will be easier for me to fix.
  • Communicate the GOOD. Focus on it, in fact.
  • Celebrate the little things with your parents!
  • Always take a team approach when talking about goals, academics, and behavior.
  • Always be honest. Never sugar-coat things. If you do, parents won’t know what’s really true when they talk to you.
  • Ask for their input. They are experts on their child, after all!
  • Videos & Pictures of academic progress help parents see exactly where their child is preforming at school. And sometimes shows that the student CAN do it!

With my remote learners, I schedule a time with my parents to just talk about how things are going. What’s going well, what’s not working, what do we need to change, and what do they need help with. From helping with Boom Cards (the photo below) or brainstorming replacement behaviors, these questions have brought about so much trust and relationship building! It only takes a few minutes each week, but feel much closer with those parents when I take that time to understand what’s going on and how they are doing.

Building Relationships with School Staff

You could apply this to just about any school staff member you want, but let’s focus on general education teachers. It’s our ULTIMATE GOAL to have our students in gen ed with no support. Will that happen for every student? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean we don’t stop trying. Your student’s gen ed teacher can make or break their experience with their gen ed peers. So, set your gen ed teachers up for success. Here’s how:

  • Help them prepare for your shared student. Fill them in on likes, dislikes, interests, etc.
  • Work with them to create and meet accommodations and modifications
  • Include them in the IEP process. They are NOT just a signature.
  • Encourage them to build a relationship with your shared student.
  • Share progress with them so they can celebrate small victories and academic success, too!


The gen ed teacher in this picture knew just how much our shared student needed a squeeze, and she was happy to be the one to give it. I love that the gen ed teacher knew the students needs and knew how to meet them. Everything about that makes my heart sing! That’s exactly how it should be.

When you really stop and think about it, building relationships is a huge part of our job as educators. When we put the time in to building relationships with our students, our parents, and school staff everyone wins, especially the student.


  1. As a parent of one of Jen’s past students I can really relate to this!!! She took the time with my child and made him feel safe and comfortable in her class and Gen-Ed. He is now a thriving student and successful academically. She even helped with our relationship at home. We are closer then we have ever been because she took the time to build a relationship with me. We worked on how doing the same thing at home and school gave him more structure. We will always have a place in our hearts for her❤️

  2. Hi Cori! SO happy to hear! Thank you so much for sharing 🙂

  3. Hello,

    I am a Behavior Specialist for a large urban district in the Lehigh Valley Area of Pennsylvania. I couldn’t agree more that building relationships with the students and parents is really important. I work with a lot of students with different disabilities and with varying diagnoses, (ES, MDS, LSS, AS,). One of the first things that I try and do is build that positive rapport with the student and get to know them on a more personal level so when I am creating a behavior chart It will be more personalized. I also like to build a positive relationship with the parent(s) so that the child knows we are all on the same page and no one is “out to get them”. I am looking forward to reading more on your blog.


  4. Hi Janelle, YES – love those suggestions! Thanks for reading 🙂


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