Intensive ABA Services
By Jennifer LaMarca
Lovaas Institute - Indianapolis
Hard to believe, but school is already just around the corner. The start of a new school year reminded me of a common complaint from many parents – the type of feedback they receive in parent-teacher logbooks. These communication logbooks are often sent home with a child on a daily or weekly basis. While I have heard many complaints concerning the information that is shared, I have also seen parents who were very happy with the information they have received. Below are examples of two different logbooks and entries, followed by a set of questions to consider when setting up logbook communication for the coming school year.
Some logbooks primarily list the activities for the day. This is not the most crucial information for most parents. They are interested in how their son or daughter did during these activities. Did they participate or not? If they participated, exactly what did they do? Was their participation independent or prompted?
Teachers are busy, particularly at the end of the day. But, logbook comments that say a child had a "great day" are ambiguous. Further, they may be biased and reflect more on one particular incident during the day (either good or bad) rather than how well the child did that day overall. Logbooks that focus on specific behaviors, often taken from a child's IEP, give parents a much clearer picture of how each day went.
Children with IEP's often have diverse needs. Attempts to find one logbook form that will serve the needs of all children is difficult. A logbook form may give general direction to the information that is reported. For example, logbook 2 focuses on 4 areas: independence, academics, peer interactions, and behaviors. However, the specific information reported in each logbook often has to be individualized to a child if you hope for it to be of any benefit to the parents.
A good communication logbook actually results in back and forth communication between the teacher and the parent. Thus, there should always be a place that specifically says "parent feedback" to serve as an invitation for parents to respond. Further, teachers should seek input from parents as to whether or not the information given in the logbook is helpful. Logbooks do not have to report all the data that may have been collected for the day. When teachers work with parents to find out what information is most important to them, the logbook may be able to focus on the three to five behaviors of most concern.
When worksheets from school are sent home with a child's logbook, it isn't always clear how the child completed the worksheet. Parents have shown me worksheets where they are certain some sections could not have been done independently while other sections may have been done independently. However, no information was given to explain which problems were prompted and which were completed independently. Sure enough, when an observation was conducted in school, the aide prompted some of the problems while the child completed other problems independently.
Unfortunately, parents raise concerns about the information that is being provided to them about their child's progress, and some teachers are hesitant to change what they are already doing. While I understand that teachers do not have a lot of time to fill out communication logs, the problem usually runs deeper. That is, parents are often having difficulty obtaining any clear, objective data on how their child is progressing. Parents of typically developing students in a regular education classroom receive a lot of feedback from teachers. Tests and assignments are graded and taken home frequently. I wonder what the reaction would be from a parent of a regular education student if all they received from the teacher throughout the quarter was a note saying their child was "doing well" with an occasional "needs improvement," worksheets that had a check mark, but no grade on them, and then at the end of the quarter the child came home with a "C" on his report card. Yet, that is exactly the kind of situation in which I find some parents of children with autism. Their child will come home with a daily report saying "good day" or "bad day," worksheets that don't explain what work was done independently, and then at the end of each and every quarter, they find that "progress was made, but objective not met" on all the IEP goals.
Fortunately, there are also teachers out there who have made a commitment to providing parents with useful information about their son or daughter's progress, just as typically developing children receive. The teacher who used the logbook example 2 is just such a teacher. She had a general framework for logbooks that she used, based on what she found most relevant to children with autism in elementary school, namely, an increase in independence, the acquisition of academic skills, participation in peer interactions, and a decrease in inappropriate behaviors. At the IEP meeting, she made note of which objectives were most important to her and/or the parents. She created an individualized logbook form that focused on these 3-5 objectives. Aides were required to write information in the logbook before the end of the day, if they happened to work on a particular skill with the child. Aides were also taught to have 2 highlighters (yellow and pink) and a pen on them at all times. When a child was completing a worksheet, the aides would quickly highlight independent work in yellow or prompted work in pink (for some students it made sense to only highlight what was independent while for other students/worksheets it made sense to only highlight what was prompted). Aides could also write "I" (for independent) or "P" (for prompted) next to the work. At the end of the day, the teacher quickly reviewed the logbook, which was generally already completed, and then filled in any comments, if she had something else to say. At the first parent-teacher meeting, she went over why she was keeping track of those particular skills and the parents were told their input was welcome on what information was presented. Note that the logbook did not get across everything that happened in the day. On the contrary, it only focused on a few specific behaviors. However, since the information was precise and parent input was welcome, the teacher was able to create a true dialogue with parents. Because of this dialogue, the parents were comfortable that the information they were receiving was an appropriate snapshot of the strengths, weaknesses, and progress their child was showing in school.
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The names of all children in this newsletter have been changed in respect for family confidentiality.
Puppet Teacher! Have a stuffed puppet praise and tickle the child. Have the puppet give the instructions.
Mandy! Sing Barry Manilow songs with either a good or an outrageously bad voice.
Funky Dancing! Sing and dance to really funky songs. Hold the child in your arms, or on your feet.
Cookie Monster Praise! Practice your imitations of kid show actors, such as Barney, Goofy, or Cookie Monster. Give praise in their voices.
Hair Torture! Lay the child down and gently sweep your hair over their face with "oh, no" or whatever to let them know it is coming.
Harry is in a regular second grade class with minimal support from a confederate aide. One day during reading centers with Harry's teacher, the kids read a story about a messy pig. Harry's teacher asked the kids whether they would want a pig for a pet. All of the kids said "yes," except for Harry. When asked why, he laughed and said if HE were to get another pet, he would get a "riding bull" because it would be a lot more fun than just a messy pig.
4-year-old Deron was playing with a peer, when the peer suddenly announced that he was going to use the bathroom. Deron declared that he, too, was going to use the bathroom and followed his peer. Upon entering the bathroom, Deron worked furiously to pull down his pants. He quickly turned around, only to discover that his peer had beat him to the toilet. Assessing the situation for a brief moment, he nonchalantly stated, "Still go," walked over to the side of the toilet, and began to aim in the small space left by his seated peer...His aim was impeccable.