We know how important it is for your child’s special needs to be addressed by his or her care provider. Whether it is at his or her school, care program, or daily activities, it is essential that your child’s care plan is addressed. Without establishing the details of the care that is needed, your child may not be able to receive the attention that he or she requires throughout the day.

We know that this can be a difficult conversation to start. What should be addressed? What shouldn’t? How will your child’s privacy be maintained? What steps will be taken to ensure that his or her unique challenges are addressed and consistently met with success? What are the benchmarks, outcomes, or key performance indicators that the staff will use to ensure that your child is safe, well taken care of and thriving?

Let us share with you nine key components to the conversation you can use when meeting with your child’s teacher, directors or school officials, as well as any of the family and friends you receive support from on a daily basis.

1. Review the official diagnosis. All those involved can start with their best foot forward when they know the official diagnosis your special needs child has. Failure to communicate the right diagnosis can result in miscommunication on all sides. Start the relationship off right by sharing this critical information.

2. Discuss how your child is different. When the diagnosis is confirmed and discussed by all involved, take the time to explain what makes your child unique apart from his or her diagnosis. This understanding of the nuances in your child’s condition can help all involved.

3. Share what works at home. While this will be a different setting than the home, it is important for you to share what does work in the home. Routines, protocols, and comfort measures can help everyone involved. Let those who will be directly impacting your child’s care know the experiences you have had to ensure a better relationship for your child.

4. Share what doesn’t work at home. Again, while this will be a different situation, if there are things that absolutely do not work for your child it is important for you to share them. Structures, rules, and tone can be important for a teacher or caregiver to know about in advance. Sharing this type of information will help those involved establish a baseline for good communication with your child.

5. Relevant feedback from care providers who have been involved at this point. Everyone has their own opinion and this is true of those who care for your child. Knowing that your child will be going into a new environment, ask those who are involved to give insight into how your child does under different circumstances. This can be incredibly helpful for future caregivers who are starting to work with your child.

6. Specifics about this program that attracted you to it and how you feel it will benefit your child. Share with those you are talking to in the meeting what attracted you to this program. What benefits, plans, or activities made you realize this was right for your child? Sharing this information will help those involved have a better understanding of what will motivate and move your child forward as they start to work together.

7. Create a standing meeting now for evaluation. Relationships take time to develop. Commit now to working with those involved on your child’s care. Set a timeline for when you will review how things are going, the progress made, and address any emerging concerns. Together, you can create an environment that can best help your child.

8. Address changes to protocol early. For many children with a disability, routine is the most valuable part of the day. If something were to change in the caregiving environment it is important that you know sooner rather than later so you can address it at home. Talk to the facility, school, or caregiver to discuss what the plan is should there need to be change to the daily routine or protocol.

9. Review and confirm that you understand crisis protocol. When it comes to caring for your child, nothing can be worse than an emergency phone call. Start to alleviate some of the stress now by discussing with those involved how a crisis will be handled. Who will be called? How will communication be handled if there needs to be an ambulance? Start to iron out the details now so no one is surprised down the line.

You can use this checklist as a baseline to get started. We encourage you to share with us what works for you and your special needs child. Do not wait to schedule a free case evaluation should you suspect something has negatively impacted your special needs child at the hands of a caregiver or in the school. We are your local advocates here to help you.