Effective special education requires the cooperation of a diverse team, including the special education teacher, general education teachers, the schoolwide assistance team, parents and special education students. Thus, effective communication between them is crucial. Some attributes of effective communication for special educators are team building, interpersonal skills, frequent communication and managing conflict.
Because special education requires the cooperation of many diverse school personnel, as well as families, special educators need to know how to communicate in a way that fosters team building. Everyone involved should agree on common goals and the focus should be on cooperation to achieve those goals. This can be accomplished through brainstorming ideas and solutions for problem solving. The special educator can facilitate team building by clarifying everyone's role within the team and creating a set of norms or process for sharing ideas, such as in meetings to prepare students' Individual Education Plans.
All good communication involves some key interpersonal skills. Active listening is achieved by focusing completely on the speaker and repeating back what you hear them say. This fosters clear communication and makes the speaker feel heard and appreciated. Another key is depersonalizing, or focusing on the issue, not the people involved, keeping communication professional and not personal. Clear verbal and written communication are also important, avoiding special education jargon and use language that everyone can understand and providing opportunities for others to ask questions.
Effective communication doesn't just happen at the beginning of the school year, when schedules are created and students are being placed in the appropriate programs. Special educators need to check in regularly with cooperating general education teachers, parents and school administration to ensure that their students continue to make progress. This way, any needed change can be addressed quickly, before it becomes a bigger problem. Effective teachers make sure that colleagues and parents know they are open to hearing any concerns.
When there is a large group of people working together, conflict is inevitable. General education teachers or parents may disagree about student placement. Parents may become emotional when issues arise involving their child. Special education teachers need to handle conflict by using active listening skills and taking the time to address others' concerns. Team meetings should involve a democratic approach and a willingness to compromise to find solutions everyone can accept.
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