Parent/Teacher Conference

Discussion in 'New Teachers' started by Carebear05, Feb 8, 2008.

  1. Carebear05

    Carebear05 Comrade

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    Feb 8, 2008

    So has anyone had a hard conference yet? I just had one today. The parents got a letter in their son's report card saying that he could possibly be held back because he's working below grade level. He's already labeled developmentally delayed, so obviously he's not at the level he should be. Plus, he was placed in 1st grade when he should have been held back but wasnt because of age.

    Anyway, the parents wanted to come in for a conference and ask about the letter. They are very good parents btw. They work with their son and are very involved with his education and in helping him. So we explained to them why he might be held back, and what skills he needed to work on, and yada yada. It seemed to go okay and they seemed to understand. Then the dad asks the question "do you think something else is wrong with him". So then the SPED teacher and I explain that we think he shows some signs of autism. Well the mom just lost it and I felt so bad! I mean I know it's hard for a parent to think of their child as having autism and I know I didnt do anything wrong, but I just felt so sad for her. So she went out into the hall and the aide followed her while the SPED teacher and I stayed in the room with the dad and talked to him about autism and this and that. The the mom, the aide and the principal come back into the room. And Im thinking oh great, Im in trouble with my boss. But I think he was concerned about the mom and wanted to see what we were discussing. Basically we just said that the boy needed to be tested to see what his diagnosis is, and whatever he has we want him to get the help he needs.

    I think the mom understood, but I think shes just been in denial and hasnt wanted to accept the fact that her baby is different. She also seemed to think that he would have to go to like an autism center and everything else. We explained to her that if he was autistic then he is very high functioning and that we would work with him in anyway we can. I almost started crying myself. I honestly, in my 1st yr of teaching, never thought I would have to do something like that. And I wasnt planning on it, but the dad asked and I felt that to be fair to him we had to be truthful. It was just a hard conference for me because for some reason I feel guilty, yet I know that the boy has some other issues and the best thing is to get him tested ASAP. I told the mom that he was a great kid and that he always helps me and does whatever I ask, and he's a sweet kid. He really is! I was worried about having him in my class at first, but he is a very good student and I want to see him succeed.
     
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  3. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    Feb 8, 2008

    Carebear, I haven't had any conferences where I've had to discuss issues such as autism or SpEd. I have had my share of difficult P/T conferences where the parents were just outright mean!

    No parent wants to hear that their baby might be SpEd. I know I would have reacted the same way had I been told that. I'm sure the parents were aware that could be a possibility, but having it stated outloud is the final step to admitting it. I think you handled it very well.
     
  4. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Feb 8, 2008

    I'm sorry your conference didn't go as well as you wanted it to go. I think you handled things in the appropriate way.

    In your district, are you allowed to say that you think you might be seeing signs that a student has autism? In mine, we are not allowed to do that, and we have to be very careful even about hints we make. The only people who are legally qualified to make those sorts are statement are school nurses, counselors, psychologists, and doctors--and at least in our district teachers would be outside their scope of practice if they began making medical diagnoses or implied medical diagnoses.
     
  5. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Feb 9, 2008

    My experience is much the same as Cassie's. We are allowed to talk about what we observe, but are not able to put any sort of label on it unless and until there is an official diagnosis from a psychologist or doctor.

    It is very difficult for parents to accept that their child may be different or learn differently from their peers. I think that the most important thing to do to help parents is to have constant communication with them. My principal believes very strongly that there should never be any surprises on report cards; parents should be well aware of difficulties or concerns long before this. We are required to call all parents of students who will be receiving low Cs or lower at least 3 weeks before report cards go home, and to have a sit-down conference about any student who is failing any subject.

    Now that you have identified and communicated your concerns with the parents, it is important to have a clear plan of action to help to determine how best to help him.
     
  6. RainStorm

    RainStorm Phenom

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    Feb 9, 2008

    Carebear,

    I had a similar situation recently. The only difference, this was AT a child study meeting. With a room full of counselors, psychologist, case managers, and other professionals -- nobody would come right out and say "it." They kept talking about "the test results" and the score "being a 61."

    Finally, the mother looked to me and said "what does all this mean? What's wrong with my little girl?"

    I spent the next 20 minutes explaining what mental retardation was. The mother didn't want to hear it, BUT she also said that she already suspected it. It was just hard to actually hear it.

    Then we spent some time talking about ways we could help her daughter succeed in school. Fortunately, she is a parent who would do anything for her children.

    The child is still in my class -- and will stay there. (I could have had her moved to the inclusion class.) She is very high functioning, and with SpEd help, she can stay in a general education environment.

    At some point (high school), I do think she'll need to go to the vocational studies program.

    It is hard to tell parents something unpleasant. It is even harder when you are confirming "their worst nightmare."
     
  7. Carebear05

    Carebear05 Comrade

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    Feb 9, 2008

    Well honestly Im not really sure what all we can tell the parents. I mean I know that when it comes to like medication, we obviously cant say "your child needs medication" or whatever. However, in this case the father KNEW that something else was wrong and he asked. I was never even going to bring the subject up because I was told theyre not usually diagnosed until 2nd grade anyway. And when the SPED teacher and I started saying "we think he may show some signs of...." and even the mother filled in the blank with "autism". So I kinda gathered from that that she's maybe heard it before. The father had many questions, and he even talked about things that he's seen him do that's different. So I dont think we would have gotten away from the conference with just saying he needs to be tested because he really wanted to know what could be wrong. BUT we did tell him that we see those things, however his son needed to be tested to find out what the real problem is because we cant diagnose him just by seeing signs. And even the principal said that he needed to be tested to maybe even rule out autism. So to answer that question I dont know. I mean I hope I dont get in trouble for it *lol*. No one ever told me what I could/couldnt say.
     
  8. RainStorm

    RainStorm Phenom

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    Feb 9, 2008

    THis is very typical. The only time you'll find out is if you make a mistake and somebody complains. Teacher's prep should cover this, but often (very often) they don't.

    As a general rule, it is best to state your observations (actual behaviors you have observed.) If they ask what you think the problem is, I would say "It could be many things. Your family doctor is a great place to start. (If they don't have insurance and use the emergency room for medical care, we refer them to the health department's free clinic.) I'd be more than happy to talk with the doctor directly and tell him/he what I've observed. Please tell him to feel free to contact me." I also tell them that they can request a Child Study meeting, and our school psychologist (we have her one day per week) will do some tests and provide the results. This is usually best when money is a problem. It is free to the parent, and if it shows a problem that might be helped with medication, we can send our test results directly to the physician, so the parent doesn't have to pay to have them done.

    I don't leave it there. I probably should, but I don't. If the parent says they are going to the doctor, I check back every few days to find out if they have made the appointment and when it is. (I use the pretense of getting the child's work together, since they will usually miss class to go to the appointment.)

    If the parent is really receptive, I might ask how the appointment went... but that depends on the parent.

    I think you did fine. If nobody tells you how to handle a situation like this, how would you know? Obviously, you had the child's best interest at heart.
     
  9. Carebear05

    Carebear05 Comrade

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    Feb 9, 2008


    Yes I do. And like I said, if the father hadnt been so persistent in wanting answers, we wouldnt have said anything. But he just kept asking, is something else wrong with him, is there something wrong mentally, etc. Not to mention the SPED teacher was there as well, so I feel that even if I hadnt said anything she would have because she explained a lot of things to him. Im not sure our school psych. would diagnosis him just because Ive been told that theyre developmentally delayed until they get to 2nd grade. So I think most ppl who want their children tested before then have to go somewhere else to do it. The SPED teacher recommended that and even said that she would ask our district's SPED faciliatator where the best place to go would be. So I honestly have no idea how it works. Which is the main reason I have the SPED teacher come into the conferences because theres a lot I dont know, eps. when it comes to testing. I guess all and all I feel bad because I/we/the situation made the mom cry. I mean this being my 1st yr. it's not something I wanted or expected to happen. And now, regardless of what his diagnosis is, I feel bad about holding him back because I feel like theyre going thru enough as it is. :unsure:
     
  10. cheeryteacher

    cheeryteacher Enthusiast

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    Feb 9, 2008

    I have always been told to only tell parents observations I have made.
    If I were a parent and was asking what was wrong with my child I think I would want someone to just tell me, especially if I already suspected something.
    In the case of RainStorm's story, I assume they were supposed to be telling that mom what the problem was, that's why they had the test results after all. Everyone was afraid to tell her because of legal obligations. Fear of being sued had everyone walking on eggshells, and confusing the parent.
     
  11. Carebear05

    Carebear05 Comrade

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    Feb 10, 2008

    Well I think that was the issue here. They already suspected something. And from what I gathered, someone had already told them before that he could have autism because the mom said something about someone telling them that he could have Aspberger's syndrome. He hasnt been tested for it, but I guess someone somewhere has told her that. I guess I found it kinda odd that if someone else has told her that, why havent they tested him? I'm not sure if it was denial or what, but the father clearly accepts the fact that his son is different, and he explained many signs that he sees. Maybe finally hearing it from another source has made them realize. I dont know. I honestly think the mom was scared that if he was tested to be that, then we wouldnt work with him because she talked about seeing some movie about an autistic child and the child had to be sent to a center. I dont think she realizes that autistic children can still attend public schools. Even if he is found to be autistic, I wont look at him any other way. To me it's just a label and he is very high functioning. But she asked us if we would work with him if he was found to be that.

    I understand why schools would only want you to tell the parents observations that you see, but if a parent truly wants to know what you think could be wrong with their child, I dont see why it would be such a bad thing to say well he/she COULD have this. I mean obviously no one knows until the child is tested, but I agree that if I were a parent I would want to know. I would want as many answers as I could get right away. I dont feel that it's right to lie or hold anything back from a parent if they want answers. It IS their child.
     
  12. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Feb 11, 2008

    By sharing specific observatons and concerns and by providing the parents with information about what they can do (for example, see a family doctor), you are not lying or holding anything back. You are providing all of the information we are trained to provide. Any suspicions we have are simply that--suspicions or speculation, and those shouldn't be shared. I hope I don't offend, but I feel very strongly about this. We had a parent last year who went through he** when she was told by a teacher that her child behaved exactly like the students she had taught in an autism class. The parent panicked, the situation got pretty ugly, and, long story short, the child is not on the autism spectrum--has a moderate to severe LD.
     
  13. Carebear05

    Carebear05 Comrade

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    Feb 11, 2008

    No it doesnt offend. But I also know my relationship with these parents. I mean Im not saying that my relationship with them should change the rules, but I feel very close to the mom. If it were any other parents, I may not have been as open. But like I said, the SPED teacher was there with me and she said the same thing I did, so regardless if I had said it, it would have gotten out. I spoke to the mother today and she actually apologized to me for getting upset, and I apologized to her just because I felt bad. But she was not upset with me at all and seems to be doing just fine. Either way, I spoke to my principal several times today and not once did he tell me I was wrong. I actually had another conference today with parents telling them I wanted to refer their son for an evaluation to be tested and he told me I did a great job.
     

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