School Notes for Special Needs Kiddo!

Updated on August 24, 2008
B.W. asks from Kansas City, MO
36 answers

Hi Ladies!

Ok this is only the second day of school but, I'm not sure what to do. My son is in Special Education and he is non verbal. The notes we get from the teacher are appreciated but, so far she uses the smilie face, strait face and frownie face method. While I understand this is much easier...it's not very informative. Today my son got a frownie face in art for refusing to work. Am I out of line in wanting more information? I don't want to be overactive but I also don't want to be underinformed! Agh!! What to do?

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Thank you for your suggestions and support. We just sent and e-mail and she gave us what we were looking for!

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M.G.

answers from Kansas City on

B., I too have a son who is Special Needs. I'm not a huge fan of the smile, frown method. I think if you have a frown for a day there should deffinately be an explanation. To get that frown something or another happend. You deserve more information and should express this to the teacher.

Good Luck, M.

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C.L.

answers from Kansas City on

I think you have a right to know why he got that face. When my son gets a bad day at school, I expect to know why, at least a tiny note such as talking, playing in bathroom etc... I would start asking the teacher to tell you why he got the straight, or frown faces. That way you can possibly help him improve more. Good Luck.

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J.K.

answers from St. Louis on

Happy new school year. As a teacher of preschoolers I understand the need to make short notes home. Lots of students and little time to write long notes. This said, I have a few parents who request a little more. I am okay with this. Write a note or talk to the teacher explaining the need for more information. Good luck.

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L.H.

answers from St. Louis on

I actually work for a company/facility called Life Skills (I'm guessing if you haven't heard of it yet you will eventually). It sounds like the teachers don't understand how to deal with the developmentally disabled and their families. A major option that you have is to go to the principal or even the superintendant and ask that all teachers be educated and trained to be able to handle the disabled. To be able to treat them like they would any other kid and also to give you actual information. Most schools are now equipped to handle stuff like this because more and more disabled children are becomming mainstream. But the schools are still catching up and sometimes all even a special ed teacher is trained to deal with is the occasional ADD kid not a child that has Autism. I'm actually not sure is Life Skills gets involved in help ing families this early in the childs life but I know you can get a wealth of information if you call the local Life Skills office for your area or if you can go to their website (I'm more the type to google rather than guess cuz to be honest I've never been to the web site). I liked the advice of the lady below me that said to just ask the teacher. Here I am overanalyzing again when it could be as simple as the teacher just doesn't realize that she's not giving you enough info. I wish you the best of luck. hope it all works out for you.

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S.S.

answers from Wichita on

Well I can tell you this from both sides of the picture. As a mother with a child in a couple of special education classes, I have been lucky enough to have teachers who were always in direct communication with me. I will tell you something that I really enjoyed getting (and keep in mind that my daughter is in middle school) last year was everyday the teacher would send me and all the parents of children in special ed an email of what was worked on in class and what was assigned for homework and if there were any issues that we needed to address. However with your son being much younger, maybe a short email telling you why he has a smile face, frown, etc. so that you know and can talk to him about it and work on things that continue to be a problem. My other suggestion is set up a meeting with the special ed teacher, tell her your worries and concerns and that you want to be very involved with what goes on with your son at school. Not all parents do and sometimes they are alot more willing to work with you and give you more info if they know that you are, because sadly many parents just don't care anymore and teachers have stopped wasting their time if you get my drift.On the other side of things, my mother is a teacher so I know how busy their days are and how many after hours they must put in. If the special ed teacher is not willing to give you more information than the sticker, then if he got a frown I would just call the school and keep doing that each time he gets one, ask her/him what happened. Hopefully the teacher will get the drift and start sending more info. Just let them know that you are involved and want to know when things happen. And put your foot down (nicely of course) I did this from the beginning with my daughter and it seemed to help because each year you will have an I.E.P. (Individual Education Plan) meeting and the special ed teacher always told the new teachers that I was very involved and helpful, so it always got passed along and they were willing to work with me!

Good luck. S.

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P.T.

answers from Kansas City on

B.,

You need to be your son's advocate. My three years of experience with the school district has proven to be exhausting. The school district has many excellent teachers, but everyone has to be on the same page for everything to work in your son's best interst.

My son has ADHD and we had thorough testing done last year. The school district's care team didn't really feel that they needed to do much for him, if anything at all. Finally, because of his diagnosis, they agreed to help. It will be a long road ahead, but I suggest that you give the school every piece of information that could help them with your son's learning. As soon as you have new information, give that to them immediately.

Make sure that he has a doctor's request for an IEP (individualized education program). If he hasn't already. He will have to go through the care team for this. It is better to do all of this early. We waited until 2nd grade, which put my son behind. It just makes it harder for the child and we noticed that my son was losing self-confidence. He has finally gained all of his confidence back and is ready to have a great year with the extra help that he needs.

I feel for any parent that has to watch their child struggle. Stay actively involved and don't worry about being too pushy or demanding. Your only trying to help your son, and that is the only thing that you should worry about.Best wishes to you and your family!

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B.C.

answers from Joplin on

I understand being limited on time, maybe she is pressed for time, I hope she is putting a little personalized note on each take home sheet at least. I would not feel bad about being proactive, tell her you are very interested in his day and if you have a specific question write a note for her and send it the next day. Maybe she has an email address she is willing to give out? I keep in touch with all my kids teachers through emails. Don't be too worried like you said it is only the second day, it is an adjustment for the teachers as well as the children = )
Hope all goes well!
B.

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V.S.

answers from St. Louis on

I am a special education teacher, though not for non-verbal kids. However, I use a check-mark system to let parents know how a child's day was. If I check the "good" box, I don't elaborate. But if either "fair" or "poor" is checked, I give a short explanation for the reason, and I give more info than "refusing to work". I give at least the time of day, what the assignment and what my response to the child's behavior was. Yes, it is a bit more time-consuming for me, but I think it's important for parents to be aware of what's going on during their child's day. For my purposes, it also provides my "side" of the story, since the child will often not be totally forthcoming with an explanation. For your purposes, your child cannot tell you what happened, therefore you need an explanation. I don't think it's unrealistic for you to ask the teacher for a few more details on "frownie face" days. You are your child's strongest advocate!

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D.H.

answers from Kansas City on

Hopefully your school has some sort of Parent Night coming up where you meet the teachers. I would go and talk with your son's teacher then and explain to her that you want a little bit more details to the behavior report. If you don't have a night like that coming soon then email her. Good luck and God Bless.

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D.P.

answers from St. Louis on

I suggest to just let the teacher know that you want details about your child's behavior. Most teachers want to know how the lines of communication can be done positively.

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M.A.

answers from St. Louis on

Hi B.: I saw your post, and couldn't help but respond. My son is PDD, NOS. I don't know what school district you are in (not that it matters), but first and foremost, if you are not happy with the communication you are getting with the school, I would suggest you call and call and call until you get to speak with your son's teacher(s). Maybe I have been lucky, but the teachers are usually more than happy work with you on a system that works well for you in communicating about your son's day at school above and beyond the "sticker faces." I have a notebook that is just for notes from me (or my husband) to my son's teacher(s) and their responses to further let me know of any hightlights or lowlights of my son's day. this has been very effective and the teachers have been more than happy to use this form of communication. I have been involved in Fox's Autism Support Group for a couple of years now, and it is a wonderful resource for issues like this. And, believe it or not, what you speek of is one of the MAIN complaints the parents in that group have.

I would suggest that you get active immediately in communicating with your son's school, teachers, etc. You really need to let them know what YOU expect - each parent, unfortunately, is different and the teachers won't know until you let them know.

In my opinion, you are in no way out-of-line with your thoughts. This is your son's future, and these first years of "real school" can make or break your son's future. PERIOD. Give yourself a break and do what your gut is telling you. I hope this helps.

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K.C.

answers from Wichita on

Perhaps he just doesn't like to do art. All children learn in different ways. I have two sons whom we homeschoool I have a five-year old son who adores art and is very good at it. I have a three-year old son who doesn't even like to paint or color unless he is in the mood. But he learns through his own explorations. Is there any way that maybe the teachers could be a little more creative and help him to learn in ways that suit him better, especially since he does have a light case of autism? And I agree that the smiley faces are not the best means of communication. Perhaps you could speak with his teachers about your concerns and see if there is a way that they could communicate in a way that helps you out more.

K.

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S.D.

answers from Springfield on

I work in the school in special education and we frequently do journals for the students. Just purchase a notebook and call the teacher or set up a meeting with her before or after school and let her know what you are expecting.

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A.P.

answers from Kansas City on

If there is a need for simplicity, work with the teacher to come up with a daily sheet that she can simply make checks, but where more info is given. For exapmple- was there prompting, was something attempted but not completed etc. This was standard when I taught SPED. A communication spiral is also helpful, but there isn't always time to write a long journal for every kid in the class daily.

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J.H.

answers from Kansas City on

Hi B..

My husband teaches special ed...my advice would be to talk to the teacher about what you would like from her. Teachers love for parents to be involved (to a point I'm sure :o)) so the best thing you can do for your son, his teacher and you is to keep the lines of communication open. Nothing wrong with calling and asking for a little more information or sending a little note. Good luck!

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B.R.

answers from Kansas City on

I taught for five years. Sometimes there just isn't time during the day to make a note for just one kid. I think that her smiley face system is a way to let you know that there was an issue in art class. If my parents wanted further information, I always welcomed an email. Email allows the teacher to answer your questions when she doesn't have all the other students around her also asking/begging for her attention. She has more than just your son in class and has to attend to each - that is probably why she has the smiley face system. As this is the beginning of the year, she also doesn't know you. This may be hard to believe for an involved parent like you, but there are a ton of parents that are excited for school b/c now they don't have to take care of their children. Sad, but true. So, I think that if you just send her an email saying that you got her frowny face and was looking for more information, I think you would be pleased to know that she is releived you care and would give you whatever information you desire. Also, does your son have a para? If not, that stinks. If so, when you contact the teacher, ask her to have the para write about the incident for you. Para's entire focus is on their special needs students and should have a little more time to write you a note than the classroom teacher does.

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K.S.

answers from Kansas City on

B.,

Tell the teacher you need more than a frownie face. Have her explain why he got the frownie face and what needs to change. If the teacher is unwilling to do that, then I would ask to have your son put in a different class. I am amazed at the teachers out there that are so unwilling to teach. They like to complain that they don't get paid enough(they knew the pay when they went to college)yet aren't doing the whole job of being a TEACHER. A teacher doesn't just stand at the chalkboard(unfortunately too many do),there are so many other things involved in being a teacher. You have to know that all kids learn at a different pace and apply different techniques to each child. I had a wonderful 3rd grade teacher that really worked extra hard with me. There were some things that I just didn't understand. She did a bunch of extra's for me and I still remember her to this day. I'm sure she's not alive anymore cause she was pretty old, but I would love to look her up to thank her if I thought she was still around. If this teacher doesn't change, keep looking and hopefully you can find a good one like I had. :)

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J.B.

answers from Kansas City on

Oh, yes. This really threw me at the beginning of last year! I felt the exact same way. My daughter has cerebral palsy and is nonverbal. Last year she started kindergarden and would bring home sad faces almost every day but in preschool she had a good day every single say. I sent alot of messages asking what happened. I used email, which most school districts have on thier website, and with the comments on the back. I eventually started to understand what thier system was. With the RTW (refused to work) if they had to tell her more then once, she got the straight face. If they had to tell her more then a few times, she got a sad face. Thier standards were just quite a bit higher then they were for her in preschool. It's so difficult because we want others to accept them for who they are but at the same time we do want them to be as socially integrated as possible. It took most of the year, but I am on an open communication line with her teacher. Luckily, she has the same teacher so I don't need to start over. I also believe that the standards that they hold her to, once I understood what it took to get a :(, were standards as to the home too and within her range of camabilities. So, we started to reward her for all :) days and made a big yeah out of them. And it worked. Just ask, don't feel guilty about it, you want to take part in your child's education and they shoulf appreciate it. Ask what is the best form of communication is for his teachers.

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E.P.

answers from Springfield on

Hello:

I do not feel you are out of line, sometimes even though they are the teacher,, every child is different, and will respond differently to a certain face or mark, or even the way things are said to him. I would make sure I attended the open house (if your school has one) our schools have a open house within the first week or two after the children go back to school. and I would approach her with the way you feel. Because until she knows, she will think that its o.k..I know alot of time teachers really do not think about the little things, but may say encouraging words to the child , to make sure he or she does better next time. But after putting 4 children through school, well the last one is a junior in high school. I always wanted to meet the teacher and ask about the way they teach, discipline, what if my child falls behind. If she sends notes home with students , just the basics.Here is the reason:

My oldest daughter was going into the first grade, my husband and I were in her room for the open house, she was going over how she taught, her rules and regulations in the classroom,, the subject came up about what if a student fell behind, or was not understanding something, could the child come to her for individual help, she said " Absolutely not! if they did not understand something, they was not listening, if they learned at a different pace then she taught they would more than likely fail. My husband was upset as was I we got up and left th room and had my daughters teacher changed. The teacher explained now that she had 25 children in her room ,she did not have the time to give extra help.Needless to say she only lasted that year barely at school, she was gone. So I think you should knip it in the bud now.

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T.R.

answers from St. Louis on

There's a website called disability solutions that has awesome resources for lots of situations you may encounter. This issue is one of my favorites and talks about home to school communications.

http://www.disabilitysolutions.org/newsletters/files/four...

You may have to have something like this written in his IEP, if he has one. The "faces" isn't at all what you need, plus you need to hear the positives about his day too - not just the negatives. Do the faces matter to him? Doesn't seem like very good positive reinforcement if that's all the feedback he gets from his day.

You might also suggest the teacher email you if that's easier.

It's tough to send a kid that's non-verbal off to school. My 11 year old has Down syndrome (and talks incessantly now!) and he was a one-word kind of guy when he was five. Not much talking about his day - so I know where you're coming from -

Good luck -
T.

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C.P.

answers from Topeka on

I agree with the little notebook. My son has Down Syndrome and we used a system where the teacher or para would notate anything throughout the day. Early elementary we had three sections-morning, lunch, and afternoon where he would get happy, straight or sad faces. There would be an explaination if necessary. He knew that 2 sad faces meant no tv or computer games and days with all happy's were rewarded with some special privilege he could choose from that we had listed as special. By all means, if you can, visit his class regularly. He needs you to see what he is dealing with all day and there may be things you'll see that the teacher doesn't that would be simple fixes to make his day more successful. The more involved you are all the way through the better. My son graduated and is holding a regular job at a car dealership now. He has days, but is successful in being a good worker. God Bless.

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K.N.

answers from St. Louis on

I am a sp.ed. teacher (now a sahm) and I find it very refreshing to see a parent who wants to know how their child is doing! (my school had parents who couldn't care less.) My suggestion is to tell the teacher you want to have more detailed info on behavioral issues regarding your son. I used to have a notebook for each child that went home nightly where i could comment on any specific behavior issues that arose. The parents could read and respond nightly or as often as they wished (I required that at minimal, they signed it each night so I knew they at least read my comments.0 I did it mostly to cover my bases (i had parents who never inquired about their children and then tried to slam ME at IEP time for not being informative thru the year - the notebook eliminated this because they had to sigh it nightly and couldn't deny my efforts to inform them.) Tell his teacher you want a notebook like this. She should welcome the chance to give you more detailed info on your child. If she doesn't, ask to meet with her, I garuntee, she'll do it if you make it an issue of importance. Hope this helps.

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M.C.

answers from St. Louis on

You are your child biggest advocate so you need to ask questions and be informed. As a teacher of students with autism I would rather have a parent asking too many questions than none at all. Is there a communication folder or notebook where you can ask questions? Is e-mail a possibility? If none of these are in place I would talk to the teacher and figure out a way you can get more information if needed since your son is not able to come home and tell you about his day. Good Luck

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J.H.

answers from Kansas City on

Dear B.--you are right to want more information about how your child is doing at shcool each day! What about a log book that the teacher can write in? I know that, depending on whether you are on the MO side or the KS side, there are groups available to help teach you about your child's educational rights and your rights as parents of a child needing special services at school. I work for the Missouri Developmental Disabilities Resource Center as a resource specialist, and I have the contact information for these organizations and so many others! Please feel free to contact me at 800-444-0821 (Greater KC calling area ###-###-####)or send me an e-mail to [email protected]____.com. I would be happy to get you in contact with organizations that can help you out! Sincerely, J. Hatfield-Callen

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P.H.

answers from Wichita on

Gosh the notebook idea is great! In the upper grades 4,5,6th the kids have an "agenda" book at school to help them keep organized, my son has Special Education for reading and ADD, so this book was invaluable to us as the teachers would write in it everyday so we knew what homework needed finished, how his assignments were going, how his attitude was that day.
But there isn't anything like that at your son's age, so try the notebook! Usually the teachers want to help as much as possible. (is there such thing as overactive when it comes to being informed about your kids?lol)

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S.W.

answers from St. Louis on

Hi B., I think that it's perfectly acceptable for you to want more info on your son. How can you work with him at home on some of his school issues if you don't know what they are? I know that with my 2 girls I like to know whats going on. There is nothing worse than getting a note or a phone call and finding out there has been an issue for "sometime". I had that with my oldest last year. I would simply ask your sons teacher to give you a little reason why the sad face when he's getting one. She dosen't have to write a book, just a short note.

Good luck!

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B.G.

answers from St. Louis on

B.,
I would ask the teacher if she would be willing to fill out a short checklist under each smiley face. The checklist could be a list of behaviors for each so you know exactly what he is doing (both positive and negative). Maybe you and the teacher could develop this together or maybe the school already has something like that she can use? That way it is still easy for the teacher to complete but gives you more information about his behavior rather than a judgment of him. So the sad face could have a check box for "threw paper across the room" or other behaviors that you are trying to eliminate (I'm not sure what those are, just giving an example). I think you are totally right to ask for more information, but phrase it to the teacher that you want to know what he is doing so you can work with him at home on those issues.
Hope this helps!

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H.S.

answers from St. Louis on

B.,
Take a deep breath. There are several things you can do to improve communication. First, ask the teacher or call her directly and find out what might have caused the problem in art or what happened. You have the right to ask the teacher for her phone number and e-mail. In our district the e-mails are posted online for each teacher.

Second, I made my own 'cheat sheet' for the teacher. I used the faces and then put in several lines for a description. I added an area for speech and OT. Basically I needed to know what my daughter worked on, how she did, and if I needed to work with her in a certain way at home. The teacher does not have any clue about your needs...so make it very easy for her to give you what you want.

Third, be as interactive and friendly as possible. You really do not want the teacher to run from you on sight. Parents are emotionally involved in the outcome of their child's education and it does make us volatile. Having felt this way last year with my team at the beginning of the year, I have to say, they were really wonderful people and educators for my child and I loved them by the end of the year. Be sure to reward them for their hard work and praise them.

Last, always remember that you have rights. One of those rights is to be an advocate for your child. A good start is to inform the teacher of key issues in the IEP...like how to handle tantrums or how to transition. Teachers try to read the IEP's in the first month, but you can give them some key advice as an expert on YOUR child. Many parents make a little book introducing their child with a picture on the front. It includes: Likes, Dislikes, Key IEP Goals, and what is special about your child and why the teacher is so lucky to have them in their class. This makes your child so much more than just another IEP AND your teacher will be like 'WOW, this parent really wants to help me help her child. AWESOME!'

E-mail me any time if you have concerns. You can also join the 'Parent Advisory Council' for lots of wonderful advice from parents that have been through it and can tell you how they failed or succeeded.

H.

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S.P.

answers from Kansas City on

You are not out of line for wanting more informations regarding what your son did all day. Somedays I wish i could be a fly on the wall just to see all the interaction and activities my children do each day. I would just suggest that you and the teacher have a discussion to see if the teacher would have time to add a bit more info to his report. Maybe set up a meeting with her to discuss, if she has time. Let her know you are concerned of your son's daily activities, and would like to have things to discuss with him when he is at home, like discussing how his day was. (i know he is non verbal, but conversations is always good) and with an informative report you would have the background information from the teacher to help you find the areas of your son's day that needs a bit of encouragement from mom.

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M.T.

answers from St. Louis on

Write a note or E-mail stating "I would like to stay informed of my son's problems and progress at school to see what I can help with." and include your E-mail address. My son has ADHD and it helped a lot to get updates about weekly from his teacher last year when we were adjusting his meds. Its the fastest and best way to communicate usually. She will probably appreciate you want to be involved. With it being only the second day, she probably doesn't know yet either that you are the type of parent that would like to stay informed and on top of it. Or even speak with her about it and offer her your E-mail. It is a lot more convenient for the teachers in the classrooms to E-mail also.

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A.O.

answers from St. Louis on

In the past, I have used a journal to communicate with parents specific information. A 10 cent spiral was a great communication tool!

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M.L.

answers from St. Louis on

You cannot address what you don't know. I would contact the teachers and tell them you would like to have more details in order to diary his behavior. This will help you tell address problems they have. Perhaps this way you can tell the teacher his likes and dislikes and that is why he may have refused to paint. The children with special needs are just that and require better communications. My sister in law fought the system for so long about issues and after he graduated they continued there quest for rights for special needs. Good Luck.

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A.S.

answers from Kansas City on

Don't be afraid to call or e-mail your son's teacher and request more information! You are not out of line at all. It's part of a teacher's job to keep the parents informed about what is going on in the classroom.

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J.B.

answers from St. Louis on

Hi B.,
I also have a non verbal child in 1st grade and her Para and Sp. Ed teacher writes me every night about her day at school. There are no frownie, smiley, strait, etc..faces on her notes. I always answer back right away and ask questions if I have any.
You are entitled to more information regarding your son and it shouldn't be with faces. I would call and tell them what you want. Go to the principle if you have too.
The teachers/para also did this last year when she was in kindergarten. I can't wait for my youngest daughter to start school. She has DS and I will be expecting the same letters for her as well.

J.

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R.K.

answers from St. Louis on

I'm sure the teacher is using the smiley face method as a short cut because it's quick and easy, leaving her more time with her students. I'm willing to bet, if the issue was super serious, she'd give you more info than a frowny face. But, from what I've heard over the years from teachers, parental interest is very important to them and I'm sure she would appreciate a call asking what happened that caused the frowny face. This will give you the opportunity to help the teacher know your son better - discuss why he wouldn't do his work and how you handle that kind of situation at home, etc. Don't fret - get to know the teacher!

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L.B.

answers from St. Louis on

Hi B., my son is 4 years old and he has Down Syndrome. He has started his second year at Hazelwood Early Childhood Education program. Because he is unable to communicate with me what does and doesn't happen at school daily, I put a spiral notebook in his book bag with a nice note attached. I've asked the teachers and therapists if they would write a couple of sentences each day about his day and the "things" whether positive or negative. I don't get daily reports, but there is communication back and forth between me and the staff. So far, this has been a great tool and I feel informed. A little advice about the notebook, when writing your note for participation, praise them for taking "their" time to do this because we know how busy they are.:) Also, I've asked for email addresses and given mine in case their wasn't time to jot down a note. Good luck to you.

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