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How to talk to parents for the first time

Posted on 4/14/2019

Inclusion is becoming a more progressive movement in our culture as the need for accessibility of adaptive programs continues to skyrocket. Parents raising a child with special needs often face many challenges. These parents may feel exhausted, stressed, isolated and misunderstood. With an inclusion program in your gym, parent communication is key to success and builds a strong parent rapport. We’ve put together some simple steps to help guide you through this process.


  • Get to know the family: Take time in person or over the phone to learn the unique needs of each family. Parents want to feel understood and confident that their child will be set up for success. This process of gathering information will also help you define clear goals for each individual coming into your special abilities program. Asking specific questions will give you important information while making the family feel more comfortable. Some helpful questions can be phrased as:

    • What is your child’s primary mode of communication?

    • What educational setting is your child currently in?

    • Does your child currently have a medical diagnosis we should be aware of?

    • What environmental circumstances might inhibit your child’s ability to learn?

    • What are some activities your child enjoys?

    • What benefits would you like your child to gain through our program?

  • Avoid restrictive language: Although it is important to understand the medical diagnosis of your athlete, it is equally important to avoid language that might label or sound stereotypical towards an individual. You want to know as much as possible about the medical history of your athlete, while maintaining an unbiased perspective. Carefully phrasing your choice of words is an important skill that takes practice. If you notice from the examples below, the “don’ts” have a negative connotation, whereas the “do’s” are focused on positive language that does not label person.

    • Don’ts:

      • “I don’t have much experience with Autistic kids”

      • Gymnastics is great for kids with disabilities

      • Does your child have behavior issues?

    • Do’s:

      • “I don’t have much experience with Autism, but I’m motivated to learn more”

      • Gymnastics is beneficial for kids of all abilities

      • Do you have any behavioral concerns that I should be aware of?


  • Be compassionate: Let the families know that you care! Even if your experience working in a special needs program is minimal, be comforting, inclusive & non-judgmental. Assure the family that it is OK if their child learns through different avenues and explain that you will do what is best for that particular individual. Asking a parent what works well for them at home or school is a great way to learn about effective strategies.

Here’s a peek at the Evaluation Questionnaire we use at Spectra. LINK.  Hope you find it useful!  We applaud all of you working towards inclusion in your gym!