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A SEIT’s Role With Parents

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When you’re a SEIT you have to work with the parents and hear their concerns. A big part of our job is improving our student’s home lives, and who knows more about their home lives than the parents. The parents play a big role in our work, so it’s important to know how to work with them, and a SEIT’s ideal role with parents. 

I like to say that sometimes at least fifty percent of my job, maybe more, is dealing with parents. Yet that’s not what my degree is in.

A SEIT’s Role with parents is very important because it sets the tone for the whole case. If you have a bad relationship with the parents or they are unclear on your purpose, you aren’t going to be able to do the job.

You need the parents to be on board to get long-term results for your students because if the child isn’t expected to keep using the skills you taught when you aren’t around then they won’t generalize. 

If they don’t generalize, did you ever really teach them anything at all?

In this post, we are going to go over how to build a relationship with parents that work, and bring them on board and as part of their child’s interventions and therapy programs. 

Make sure to join my email list to get access to the free resource library, which includes a free checklist for building relationships with parents.

SEITs are not babysitters! 

I’m going to say it again.

SEITs are not babysitters! 

Not that there’s anything wrong with babysitting. I found my mentor and first SEIT job through babysitting when I was in grad school.

But let me tell you babysitting is easier than being a SEIT. If I was a babysitter my students would spend all their time stimming. I’d only look out for their safety, and when things go slow, we’d just watch a movie.

I don’t do that because I’m a teacher. 

Make it clear to your student’s parents that your role is as a teacher, granted a teacher in-house, but still a teacher. 

Someone should always be home with your student when you’re with them, for legal and safety reasons. 

You aren’t child care paid for by the district. You’re there to help their child. 

Signs you’re being treated like a babysitter include

  • Parents are leaving to run errands while you’re there
  • They ask to change hours to suit their schedule
  • Parents don’t listen to your advice.
  • They inform you of problems instead of asked how to fix them

If the family treats you like a baby sister, you have to talk to them. Make it clear that you are a professional interventionist. Tell them it’s hard for your to do your job if you aren’t being treated with respect.

As SIET, part of our role with parents is to involve them in their child’s therapy. Your student should associate them with your expectations and behavior as well. 

I try to have a parent or caregiver sit in for at least part of a session a few times a week. That way the student builds an association between what we’re doing and the parents. 

I once worked with a student who I taught to play all kinds of board games. They were great for his social skills and attention span and language. However, he only played with me.

Once a week, I’d bring his mother in to play with us too, and over time he learned to play with other people who weren’t just me. Their family time together became much more meaningful and fun because they had something they could do together that their child loved. 

I know my student loved it!

After all, who wants to play Trouble with their teacher?

If parents refuse or do not prioritize being part of your sessions because they say they are busy, that can be another sign you’re being treated like a babysitter. 

I’ve had families who wanted me to come just so they could do housework while I was with their child. 

In this case try to remember that families are very busy, and parenting a child with special needs is incredibly hard, expensive, and time-consuming. 

Be honest about your concerns, and explain to them in understandable language what generalization is. Talk about how you want to help them get the most out of your services, and that sitting in for just twenty minutes once a week can make a big difference in their understanding of their child.

Ask to schedule it, and make it a regular thing. I’ve found families are more willing to adapt if they have lots of advanced notice and if it becomes part of a routine.

I go over this more in my post on Mental Health for SEITs but sometimes you also need to have firm boundaries. 

Parents might forget that this is your job since it’s their life. 

Sometimes we all hear from parents on the weekends, over breaks, or in the evening. 

I’ve gotten calls with questions about apps for kids, concerns about diets and snacks, or asking my opinion on incidents at religious ceremonies or parties over the weekend. 

However, I also have cut-off times. I don’t do any work after 7 pm on weekdays or any work on weekends. Over time my families have all become aware of this policy I have, and the number of after-hour calls, emails, and texts has gone down.

You’re a professional, and you deserve to clock out too.

Another big part of our job is advocating for our students. We advocate to school district reps, classroom teachers, administrators, and even their parents.

Parents have a difficult job making decisions on behalf of their children. They need to decide on doctors to see, professionals to talk to, schools to go to, playgroups to join. It’s a lot of stuff. 

I don’t know if I could make that many decisions. 

You might think your views on these things don’t matter, but they do, particularly when it comes to schools. 

I always give my honest opinion about what is best for the child to the parents. I’ve told families when I don’t think their school is appropriate or when I think their little one needs to see a medical professional, eye doctors guys, super important. 

That being said, if the family goes the other way, I still back their decision. It’s my job to help make sure their child gets everything they’re entitled to, not to judge their choices. 

When approaching parents make sure to come from a place of compassion for their child, and they’ll see you’re all on the same side.

Always try to be kind to your student’s parents. They have a tough job, and it’s our job to help and make things easier. 

I always recommend you read a few books written for parents to understand their concerns.

The Autism Breakthrough by Raun Kauffman

An Early Start for Your Child With Autism by Sally J. Rogers

Both books are great for parents knew to having a SEIT and SEITs trying to understand the struggles a parent goes through. 

Just remember to always be kind, compassionate, but honest about your concerns. You and the child’s parents ultimately want the same thing, what is best for the student. 

Make sure to join my email list to get access to the free resource library, which includes a checklist on building relationships with parents!

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