August is quickly approaching and back to school sales are already in full force at various retailers. As the last few weeks of summer vacation are enjoyed by children everywhere, parents start the mental checklist of back to school preparations. For parents who have children with special needs, the start of the school year is often viewed with uncertainty, dread and sometimes, even hopelessness.
Going back to school does not have to be an event that is compared to the apocalypse, however. There are many things that can be done that will help the new school year start off on a positive note. By being organized, prepared and proactive, parents of children who have IEPs or Section 504 Plans can help ensure that their child’s year starts off on a positive note!
Being organized is the most important part of being prepared for the new school year. Now is the time to pull out your child’s most recent IEP or 504 Plan from the previous year. Read it carefully, refresh your memory of what your child’s services are and obtain clarification on anything that you don’t understand.
If you find that your child’s plan contains provisions that you didn’t agree to, or does not include details that you were under the belief would be included, type a letter detailing the part or parts in question to your child’s case coordinator or manager and email or hand deliver it to them at your first opportunity. You want your child’s special education plan to be clear, concise and accurate before the first day of school.
If you have not received your child’s school schedule, call the school building or district office and inquire as to when you can expect it. A child’s schedule is often discussed during an IEP meeting and may be referenced in the IEP document.
Go to the district’s website and look up any of your child’s teachers that you aren’t familiar with. Many times teachers have their own websites that can provide invaluable information as to their teaching styles, class disciplinary structure and even previous syllabi or course outlines that you can review to gain an understanding of the teacher and the course.
Prepare your organization system for the upcoming school year. Whether this is a file folder, a three-ring binder or some other method isn’t important, as long as it works for you. Include your child’s IEP or 504 Plan, school schedule, teacher information, class information, the school calendar and any other information you feel you will need. By having all of this information in one location, you will feel more confident and effective in working with the school team and teachers.
Be proactive! Email your child’s teachers and request a brief “getting to know you” conference. By you and your child meeting with teachers prior to the start of school, you have the opportunity to create an atmosphere of support and personal connection, helping not only your child have a smooth transition into the new year, but also the teachers responsible for their education!