From Smart Kids with LD
By Maureen Fox
September 17, 2013
Every new school year brings anticipation and anxiety. Will this year be better than/as good as last year? Will my child’s teachers “get” him? Will my child receive the services she needs to make the progress I know she is capable of?
To ensure that your child with LD or ADHD has a good year, take the time early on to create a situation that facilitates success. The payoff will be worth it.
1. Get organized.
Special Education is a marathon, not a sprint. The best way to save your sanity is to be as organized as possible. Stay ahead of the curve—if something needs to be done in two weeks, finish it in one. Stay on top of supplies your child needs sent to the school, and send them in before the teacher runs out.
Organize the paperwork: Buy a big, three-ring binder. Put everything you receive about your child, including printed emails into the binder in chronological order, with the most recent items at the back. Use Post-It tabs to mark pages you need to refer to.
2. Review the IEP.
Make sure you understand what the IEP says (link to Parent Advocacy Strategies: Review Your Child’s IEPs), what services your child is to receive, and where learning is to occur. Be clear about when and how the school will measure progress (link to Monitoring the Progress of Students with LD), and how that information will be conveyed to you.
Check this year’s IEP against last year’s for any repeated goals or objectives. If they do repeat, your child is not making progress. From the IEP, make a list of accommodations and services you expect your child to receive. Make a copy of that list and the IEP for the teacher(s) and give them out right away.
You’d be amazed how many teachers do not know what is on a child’s IEP!
3. Develop a relationship with the teacher.
You want your child’s teacher to be on your child’s side. Show support for what the teacher is trying to do. Meet early in the year to talk about your child (be sure to highlight your child’s strengths). Ask if there is anything you can do to help.
Volunteer, even if it’s to make copies. Find out the preferred method for communication—email, phone, text, a notebook sent back and forth between home and school. Ask for suggestions on creating a service provider log so that you can make sure Speech and Language instructors are doing what they’re supposed to be doing, for example.
Allow the teacher to come to know your child as a whole person, and as part of a caring family. Create a one-page fact sheet about him, with a picture of your family attached. This will let her know that your child has a family that loves and supports him. Include some basic facts about the family, your educational goals for your child this year, and other milestones you hope he reaches in areas such as socialization and communication if need be.
Tell the teacher his favorite activities as well as strategies you’ve found useful for reinforcing positive behavior. This may spur ideas about how best to motivate him. Tell the teacher if he has any sensory issues, or idiosyncratic behaviors and how you handle them.
4. Document everything.
Create a paper trail. Start a communication log in which you jot down the date, who you talked to (whether it’s on the phone or in the hallway), and what was said. Then follow it up with a polite email thanking the person for speaking with you and reiterating what was said. Print out a copy for yourself and put it in your binder. Remember, if it isn’t written, it wasn’t said!
Print out every email you send or receive; every letter you send or receive; everything, and put it in your binder.
5. Make sure your child is included from the start.
Many IEPs call for a child to be slowly “transitioned into” the general education classroom. You do not want this. Your child needs to be there during the first days, as the teacher creates community and class rules or you risk your child being seen as an outsider. Also, transitioning a child in can take a long time and be very stressful.
There have been parents who were surprised come December to find that their child hadn’t begun the transitioning process!
6. If the school will allow it, have your child take photos of her school day.
Invite your child to talk about the photos. This will give you a window into what she is experiencing and how she’s processing her time at the school.
Maureen Fox is a Professor of Educational Law, including Special Education Law, at Sacred Heart University. She is also a Special Education Advocate. You can find out more about her at www.fairfieldcountyadvocacy.com.