Marisa Howard-Karp, MS
March 5, 2024

Special Education Communication with Parents: Tools for California schools

Watch our on-demand webinar for strategies to improve communication between schools and Special Education families.

Did you know that improving communication between schools and Special Ed families can boost student achievement and improve job satisfaction for your teachers? But this is sometimes easier said than done when there are so many competing needs and priorities.

Our recent webinar highlighted strategies that California schools can use to reduce the tension and improve collaboration. You’ll have to watch the on-demand video to hear all of our strategies, but here’s a preview for you:

1. Write in a way that people can understand.

Use plain language. Make it accessible. Pay attention to literacy struggles and Special Ed jargon. It’s harder than you think!

But going out of your way to make sure families understand what you are telling them is great for communication and it builds trust. And nothing matters more in these relationships than trust.

2. Make sure families know their rights.

Sometimes schools are afraid of this one because they’re worried about legal action. But here’s a spoiler for you: when you go out of your way to make sure families know their rights, you’re actually improving the relationships because families see your efforts to include them.

And you might be surprised at some of the things even seasoned Special Ed families don’t know. 

3. Keep communication going in both directions.

Schools have gotten really skilled at using technology to get information to families. But are you as effective at getting information from families? There are lots of small things you can do to get more information and feedback from families (and no, it doesn’t have to involve yet another survey). Watch our video for ideas.

4. Partner with families to address behavior issues.

Behavior issues can be so frustrating for schools and for families. But without skills and tools to resolve these issues, things escalate quickly– schools refer students with disabilities to law enforcement almost twice as often as typical learners. Families have so much knowledge about their children and are as motivated as your school team to resolve these issues.

If you aren’t truly pairing up to address behavior problems, you’re missing a valuable resource.

5. Remember to be a human.

You already know this!

But it’s so easy – especially when you have way too much on your plate – to forget how much it matters when you connect with families as people. Notice their strengths as caregivers. Reach out even when there’s no meeting coming up and no problems to solve. The trust and relationships that come from these efforts really matter.

If you missed the live session, you can catch the recorded version on your own time. Register here and we’ll send you the link. You’ll hear more about each of these tips, plus get ideas for putting them into practice right now.

Learn more

Did you know we also offer resources and training for school districts? 

We can help you build your communication skills and improve your collaboration with Special Ed families. Learn about these offerings or get in touch with Rob Seitelman, our Partnership Development Director, for help and support.

  • Marisa Howard-Karp, MS

    Chief Operating Officer

    Marisa Howard-Karp has spent her career in public health working on improving access to health care and services. As a parent and caregiver to four children with disabilities, she has had a crash course in navigating complex services and loves being able to think about how to make that system easier for other families. She’s a non-profit lifer and a Georgia native who has made her home in the Boston area.

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