Teachers of young children experience the challenges and joys presented by the wide range of their skills and abilities. Parents often have questions about their child's development, but may be hesitant to ask them. They watch their child with other children of similar ages and sometimes see areas where their child may not have come as far developmentally. Sometimes parents ask straightforward questions, but often there is a dance between parent and teacher. Parents wonder if the teacher sees what they see. Teachers wonder if parents see what they see. It is especially difficult to talk about this if the issue is a suspected developmental delay.

As a teacher with concerns about a particular child's development, here is a place to begin. Ask yourself:

  • Do you have a good relationship with the child's parents? Do you need to strengthen rapport before beginning such a difficult conversation?
  • Have you observed the child and documented the behaviors that you are concerned about over a period of several weeks-and in a variety of settings (small group, large group, inside, outside, teacher-directed, child-directed, peer interactions)?
  • Have you talked with other program staff? How do they see this child? What have they observed?
  • Have you considered the child's culture? Is there a possible explanation within that child's cultural norms?
  • What do you see when you assess the program day? Is there a cause for those behaviors within the program day? Sometimes behavior that causes concern is due to an experience the child has during the course of the day, or to the sequence of daily events.

Work With the Parent

When a child needs further assessment by an outside professional, gather any referral information that may be needed. Make an appointment with the child's parents. This is the time to share information. What behaviors do parents see at home? What behaviors do you see at school? While meeting with parents:

  • Use your notes to be very specific about their child's behavior and your concerns.
  • Ask permission to have another early childhood professional observe the child in your classroom. Sometimes a skilled, knowledgeable observer can identify issues that elude classroom staff and parents. Most programs have an education consultant or advisory board member with the skills necessary to provide this observation and interpretation assistance.
  • Ask them to observe at home. Give them specific guidelines for situations to observe.
  • Make another appointment to discuss all the observations you have gathered.

Your next meeting with parents will be an opportunity to share information, reassess your concerns, and formulate a plan. As you work together to create a plan that addresses your concerns, you can provide parents with strategies to use at home. Share the resource information you have gathered. Then set another time to meet and discuss new information the parents have discovered, as well as how you might best continue your support for them and for their child.