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TSBVI at sunset

Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Myrna Medina and Jackie Kenley, California Deaf-Blind Services Family Specialists

Reprinted with permission from reSources Winter 2007, California Deaf-Blind Services. To view this and other issues of reSources, go to http://www.sfsu.edu/~cadbs/News.html.

Abstract: The authors share tips for facilitating communication between school and home. One author provides us a personal glimpse in how the communication notebook benefits her daughter.


A communication notebook or daily journal is a book that goes back and forth from home to school, and the idea has been around for a while. It seems to be something commonly used in special education.

It is important for parents to know what is happening with their children during the school day regardless of whether or not their children have disabilities. Home–school communication is one of the most important and necessary factors in developing good relationships between classroom teams and families. Due to busy work schedules, lack of time, and transportation challenges, the opportunities to meet in person are limited.

Teachers and school teams benefit when parents share information about medical issues that may affect the student’s behavior at school. It can be beneficial to the family and school team when they share ideas and successes with communication skills as well as other skills. Perhaps it is worthwhile to take a look at how we might better use this notebook tool with our students who are deaf-blind.

Educators and parents may see a picture in their minds of a beleaguered teacher at the end of the school day with a stack of notebooks that need to be written in. One possible solution for the team of the student who is deaf-blind may be if the student has a one-on-one aide or intervener; it may be useful to have that person writing in the communication book. The intervener/one-on-one will probably have spent most of the day with the student and be more attuned to what has happened at school. Also they will be aware of the communication [system?] the student is using and the different therapies that (s)he participated in that day. The teacher may then be free to write about special things that have happened, or concerns about the student. Also the student’s therapists such as Occupational therapist, Physical therapist, Orientation and Mobility, Speech and Vision therapists may find time to write on occasion and send messages home through the person writing in the notebook.

If the student has a home program it may be good to have the home staff write something in the communication book from time to time. Sharing ideas and strategies can be helpful to both the home and school teams.

It is, of course, important to send things—money, notices, emergency info—all sorts of things back and forth between home and school. These can be included with the notebook and this is a job the one-on-one might also help with.

Some teams may like to write long narratives but others may find that too time consuming. Most important is that the home school notebook is effective and it meets the needs of the child, team, and family; that it is used regularly; and is simple, honest, and positive, as well as understandable for all.

When writing in a communication notebook there are things we might want to consider. Things to consider are:

  • Something the student did for the first time at home or school, or something the student is beginning to do on a more regular basis, whether or not we see this as positive or negative

  • Something the student may be anxious about

  • Something that occurred physically—illness, bowel movement, menstrual period

  • What is going on at home—visitors, activities, work schedules, home staff

  • How much sleep the student has gotten

  • What the student has eaten or drunk and how that seems to affect him or her

  • Who the student interacted with socially, and how (s)he seemed to feel about that —interaction with friends, classmates, family

  • Who are the student’s buddies—what activities do they share?

  • Who the student has interacted with to work/learn, and how the student felt about that —staff, therapist

  • Physical and communication patterns during the day/week that may show how the student is feeling

  • What is happening on the bus?

  • What happened today that was not so positive?

  • Very Important: What happened today that was positive???!!!

The minute you walk through the door…

By Jackie Kenley, California Deaf-Blind Services Family Specialist

When my daughter comes home from school on the bus, we have developed a routine through the years. She seems to do best with routines and these routines meet my needs as well (e.g., her basic need to get a drink and go to the bathroom and my basic need to find out what has happened that day at school). Because of her limited communication, the home-school notebook is a particularly needed resource for me. Each day, I reach for the notebook in her backpack and try to get an idea of what’s up. Of course, life interrupts all routines, but I find this time well spent and it helps us with our plans for the rest of the day. It also helps me to know about things that need to be celebrated, things that need to be more clearly understood, and sometimes things that need to be addressed.

Some days I receive a quick note with the “basics” about her schedule, such as what she has eaten that day. Some days may be special because she has done something really exciting and new, or even comical…like throwing her folded cane in the trash can that has a permanent top! The team may have concerns about her health or there may be a cry for help from the school team about how tough things have been. This cry for help may just be a negative report but I have learned the importance of a follow up call. A longer note back to school—sometimes to schedule a team meeting—may also be helpful. Sometimes just letting members of the school team know that I understand and know they are trying their best seems to be very important to them. When I read about a less-than-positive persistent problem, the team and I can meet and often come up with ideas that support the team and help turn things around for my daughter. The home-school notebook can help facilitate comfortable, non-confrontational team meetings that are so helpful. It is something that I often wish for every child’s team.

I have had the opportunity to speak with teachers in college classes throughout the years and I always emphasize the importance of using a home-school notebook to communicate with families. I suggest that they try to write about something positive that occurred during the school day. At times, this may be a bit tough for the school staff but it can be a good practice and it is certainly encouraging to families. How many school situations could be turned around by good communication? The home-school notebook allows families and teams to work together to make the system (and program) work more effectively for the student.