In just a few short weeks, it will be a brand new year and brand new start, with new teachers, new classmates, and new things to learn! To help your child get off to a good start, here’s a to-do list for parents of children in special education:
1. Organize your paperwork.
Keep a large three ring binder for each school year. On each document, lightly pencil in the date you received it, especially if you got it in a school meeting. Include tabs for the following sections:
- IEP (Individual Education Plan)
- ETR (Evaluation Team Report)
- Private reports (include speech, psychologists, physical therapist, medical reports, anything done outside the school)
- Progress reports (these will be issued by the school at least every 9 weeks, depending on your IEP), report cards
- Standardized tests, including district and state
- Communication between you and the school. Print out your emails! Some parents keep a notebook a fill it in whenever they communicate with the school. Be sure to include dates.
- Discipline and or behavioral documents
- Receipts for any private services you have paid for, including tutoring, therapy and evaluations
2. Make the introductions.
Introduce yourself and your child to this year’s teachers and staff. Your child’s IEP should move up with him or her, but a nice email explaining the issues and highlighting your child’s needs will help busy teachers more quickly understand and be ready to implement the IEP.
3. Review your child’s IEP.
Has anything changed? Are the goals still good? What happened last year? What happened over the summer? Track your child’s progress (or lack of progress) and call an IEP meeting if you are concerned the services are not tailored to what your child needs. As a member of the IEP team, you have the right to call an IEP meeting at any time.
4. Check the dates for your child’s IEP and ETR.
An ETR is every three years, while the IEP must be updated annually.
5. Talk to your child about the upcoming year.
Paint a picture of what his or her day will look like, including which teacher or aide they’ll have and where they will be in the school. Listen to your child as the year progresses. Is he going to speech services weekly? What happens during the inclusion program? Does your older student understand the accommodations listed on the IEP or 504? Can he or she self-advocate for them?
6. Thank those busy teachers and staff!
For every problem, try to think of something that works well. You’ll get a much better response if you celebrate the good times instead of only focusing on the negatives.Remember, unless it is written down it didn’t happen! Keeping the above binder will make your job of advocating for your child much easier, and decrease stress in those difficult IEP meetings. You are your child’s best advocate!