Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Improving OUR Communication in 2011: The power of the daily log

Children and adults on the autism spectrum struggle with communication.  It is a frequently discussed topic but what about those of us that work with these individuals?  We as therapists, teachers, parents, etc. need to improve our own communication amongst each other. Daily logs are great when used and used properly.  There are many things to keep in mind on both sides of the dialogue. 

Reminders for professionals:
  • Write in the a log:  Even if there isn't much time put a quick note of "Had a great day" or a statement that you will follow up with an email or phone call.  Just to feel that you had some contact with the parents/guardians.
  • Be positive:  So, you have been bitten, kicked and screamed at all day.  There are days like this that are hard to find anything good but try to add something that shows you value their child.  Parents are not wanting to make your life miserable and cringe when reading all the things that went wrong.  Try to think of their child as if he/she were your own and what you would want to hear about. This is not to say you don't discuss the things that went wrong but try to include something that was successful as well.
  • Be specific: Parents want to know what they did that day so when you have the chance add specific information.  Be the voice for the child that is unable to tell about their day.  This allows the parents to feel even more a part of their child's day even if they don't have the verbal abilities.  Even children that can speak they are usually unable to give an accurate description of events.  Having information about the day can help parents work on dialogue at home about what they did at school. 
  • Give updates:  Let the parents know what goals you are working on whether it be behavioral or academic.  What milestones has that child met?  Many times, parents feel 'out of the loop' with where their child is academically.  It is always nice for them to get a reminder or update of what you are working on especially if you hope to have similar objectives for at home.
Reminders for parents:

  • Changes:  Your time is precious and limited but having a quick message about changes in your child's life is important.  There are often nights that he/she didn't sleep, medication adjustments, family upsets, etc.  These things can hugely affect the child at their school environment.  It is always helpful to know what expect for your child that day and being aware in case things seem a little off that day/week.  This allows the teacher to make adjustments to their expectations for your child.
  • Give updates:  Just as the teachers need to update you, they need to be updated as well.  There are many times that milestones are met in one environment and not in the other.  Let the teacher know if something such as potty training has shown some progress at home so that it can be approached in a similar manner at school.
  • Feedback/Questions:  As a therapist, I want to know what your family needs.  I need to know where the goals fit into your life and what questions you have.  If there is something that you are not understanding regarding therapy, school, etc., open up that dialogue to see if you can gain some clarification. 
Communication logs can be a simple binder that is sent back and forth with the student; many times clipped into a larger classroom 3-ring notebook.  Each participant can write the date and what information they need to share that day.  There is not a formal system necessary but you can add to the information as needed.  Many teachers also include a place for assignments to be initialed by parents, reading logs, etc. This can be included within the log or in a separate section.  Starting off fresh for the new year is a great way to improve relationships all around and to get to know the individual on the spectrum even more. 


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