We are past the halfway point of summer vacation and parents everywhere are crowding local stores for the annual “Back to School” shopping spree, with cute backpacks and new sneakers high on their agenda. For parents of children with special needs, however, the priorities at the beginning of a new school year may look a bit different.
For some parents, the beginning of the academic year is already kicking off with Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings — meetings that you have been planning for months and waiting to schedule all summer. As a parent of a child with special needs, you must prepare thoroughly. Here are a few pointers to help parents obtain the most helpful and advantageous special education strategies for their children.
Be sure to request your child’s school records. In particular, be certain to request any evaluations, progress reports, and proposed goals and objectives well in advance of the IEP meeting. These documents can be cumbersome and you will need sufficient time to review all the details and have time to dissect the information provided. Request that the documents be provided to you at least three to five days prior to the IEP meeting.
Consult with your outside community service providers regarding the information supplied. It is important to get their input on the results of the evaluations and any proposed goals and objectives. It is completely appropriate for you to get a second opinion from experts who know your child best.
Organize your child’s education records. It is best to create a binder to quickly access information that may be relevant to the decision-making process at an IEP meeting. It is a new school year, so this means a new binder with current information about your child’s education. This binder will come in handy when preparing for an IEP meeting or when discussing your case with outside experts, or perhaps with a special education attorney.
Communication with your child’s IEP team should never be limited to just the annual review. Be proactive and establish effective methods of communicating with your child’s IEP team on a regular basis right from the beginning of each school year, and, of course, at your child’s annual review.
As a parent, you are a member of the school team and as such should be actively and thoroughly informed about your child’s education on an ongoing basis. It is important to promote effective communication with your child’s IEP team:
Establish a daily or weekly home and school communication log (via electronic student portal or on paper.) The communication log is a method for school team members to broadly share information about the learning, social, and physical activities your child participated in across the school day (including services delivered by special service providers). As a parent, you should participate in the development of the communication log so that it captures the information that is important to you.
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