Friends, my name is Holly Brienza. I’m a teacher at Elmwood Middle School, and I’m here today to address a topic near-and-dear to my educator’s heart: Families. You know, the tall people you occasionally see on parent-teacher nights or in the seats at a school play?
Or maybe you don’t see them. More likely yet, you see the same families all the time. You know the ones, on-hand and ready to help at every school function? But there are lots of other families out there that you might not see as often, such as those with children with disabilities.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what we might do as teachers to better engage with these families, especially after a parent cancelled an IEP meeting at the last minute. Her child, who has a disability, had an unexpected health crisis. After speaking with her, I realized I hadn’t put much thought into the challenges she might be facing, and it got me wondering what else I might not know about my parents’ circumstances, particularly those whose children have disabilities.
Maybe some of them work multiple jobs and have limited time to be engaged with the school. Or maybe they’re overwhelmed by other stressors or responsibilities related to their child’s disability. Or it could be they haven’t had many positive experiences associated with their child’s education.
It’s a lot to think about, but think about it we must. In fact, let’s make it our Challenge…
What do teachers need to understand about working with families who have children with disabilities?
What are some ways to go about building positive relationships with families?