These therapy tips for communicating with parents and teachers will help you get heard and will ensure that your great strategies and ideas are understood and implemented.
Take it from us. Dumping sensory materials and supplies on teachers or parents and hoping that they’ll magically get used simply doesn’t work. (Check out a more effective approach to introducing sensory materials here).
And over the years, we’ve found that the same thing goes for information, strategies, and suggestions. The dumping technique gets you nowhere fast.
Whether you’re a therapist, a teacher, or another type of specialist, when you’re trying to help solve a problem related to a child’s development, talking a person’s ear off and filling their brain with all of your awesome ideas and creative suggestions usually amounts to a few things:
1 || The person feeling completely overwhelmed and unequipped to address the problem.
2 || No follow through.
3 || That deer in the headlights look that says, “I hear you talking, but I have no idea what you’re saying.”
Effective Communication With Parents and Teachers
So how can you ensure that, when you’re consulting with a parent or a teacher or someone else on your team, you’re actually being heard and understood?
Here are some of our tried and true suggestions that will help you communicate information in a more accessible way that will ensure follow-through and understanding.
These strategies are great to use during IEP meetings and consultations with teachers and parents:
1 || Lose the lingo.
Or at least recognize when you’re using it. Whatever your area of expertise, rest assured that as soon as you launch into your profession’s fancy lingo, everyone’s eyes will glaze over.
We’re not suggesting that you can’t use intelligent, informed language…just use that very specific lingo sparingly and be sure to explain what you mean in terms everyone will understand.
2 || Provide written information.
This is huge. Whenever possible, we try to leave teachers, parents, and caregivers with some kind of printable handout about what we’re discussing. Just having something in their hands to take away from the meeting helps ensure that everyone is on the same page (no pun intended). Check out some of our other printable handouts here.
3 || Keep it short and sweet.
One of my biggest weaknesses. I’m a talker and, even worse….when I write, I can get really wordy. My work friends tease me about how long my evals and IEPs are, but all kidding aside, keeping things short and to the point means that your work actually gets read by the people who need to read it! Same thing goes for verbal communication. Try to stick to the main points.
4 || Be empathetic and realistic.
Part of our role is to provide suggestions and strategies to parents and others who are involved in a child’s care and education. When we provide these suggestions, it’s important to make sure we put ourselves in the other person’s shoes.
Are our ideas realistic? Do they make life easier for the parent, teacher, or caregiver? Or are they just adding more to their plate?
5 || Sell yourself (and your suggestions).
This was one of the biggest surprises to me when I started working as an OT. I never imagined that I would have to be part salesperson to get the job done. But it’s true. When you’re providing tips, strategies, and services you have to get everyone on the team to buy in.
The best way to do this? Be a team player. Be willing to jump in and get your hands dirty – especially in the midst of classroom chaos or behavior meltdowns. Ask people what they need, how you can help.
And, just as important, be sure to clearly communicate how your knowledge, services, and suggestions are going to solve a problem or make life a little easier.
6 || Wait for the right moment.
The quickest way to get your ideas dismissed? Interrupt a teacher in the middle of their lesson or a parent in the midst of wrangling/feeding/attending to their kids.
Wait. Your. Turn. This is so so important. When you have ideas or suggestions to share, catch the person in a quiet moment or – even better – ask when is a good time to meet.
7 || Model and demonstrate.
Be willing to show up and demonstrate your ideas and suggestions yourself. The teacher or parent will appreciate the hands on help and will be more likely to carry over the idea on their own after you’ve left.
So what do you think? What are you best ideas for communicating with your team? Share them in the comments below!