Back to school time is an exciting time for all students and their parents. However, for a child with special needs, it can be an anxiety provoking experience. Here are some suggestions to make the back to school transition a little bit easier.
Do You Have Your Child's IEP?
Make sure you have your child's current 2012-2013 Individualized Education Plan ("IEP"). If you do not as of the time you are reading this, it is important to give your school district a call or send an email requesting that it be provided to you as soon as possible prior to the start of the school year. Has Anything Significant Changed Over the Summer?
Did your child have any new evaluations or even a new diagnosis? Did new concerns, behaviors or issues develop for your child over the summer, which were not discussed at the end of the year IEP Meeting? Did your child make such significant gains or have a significant regression over the summer so that the goals on the IEP are no longer meaningful? If the answer to any of these is "yes," then you need to contact the special education office and let them know and, if necessary, call a meeting! Have You Read the IEP?
Make sure you have read your child's IEP. Your child's IEP is your contract with the district. The IEP speaks to what services your child is going to receive for the upcoming year and what your child is expected to achieve this upcoming year. Please make sure you understand how your child's progress is being measured. Will data be taken? How often will data be collected? How and when will you be provided with progress reports? Do You Understand the "Lingo"?
In order to advocate effectively for your child and understand his or her IEP, it is important to have a good command of the language used in the special education arena. There are numerous acronyms used.
Set Up a Meeting or Send an Email!
During the back to school time, teachers are busy preparing for all students. To avoid confusion and to make the start of the school year run smoothly, set up a meeting or send an email to your child's teacher(s). If you are able, it is a good idea to schedule a meeting with your child's teacher to review his or her IEP. This is a great time to provide the teacher with special insight as to your child's learning style, ask questions about homework or provide information if your child is on a special diet.
For many children, it is also a good idea for the child to meet the teacher as well as any other service providers. If your child will be attending a new school, this is a great time for a tour of the campus to help ease any first-day-of-school anxiety. If a meeting is not possible or practical, you may want to create readable "down and dirty" dossier, above and beyond the IEP.
- Start with your child's strengths, but do not hold back on challenges.
- How does your child act when he or she is angry? Nervous? Sad? Also
- Highlight some of the accommodations and services that your child should be getting. If your child is in middle or high school it would be important to send it to your child's entire teaching team so all services, accommodations and modifications are applied evenly and consistently across all settings.
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