I Just finished teaching a class full of amazing parents, just like you, on Back to School Basics: successful year of 504 plans and IEPs. The discussions and questions were always spinning back to, “I have so much to focus on where do I start?”.
Starting Out. What you can do for you.
Start with taking a breath. Take a moment to identify what do you need to do and what does your child need to do before school gets into full swing. Observe what is going well, and keep doing it. Put into action a plan.
Start with you- it’s the easiest. If you have time visit all websites and watch YouTube videos that tell you what you already know. (Just in case you don’t I have added a few.)
1. Get the stuff: clothing, school supplies, lunch box, and backpack- no brainer. Now think about the extra stuff you need to put together. For some it’s the bag of medication with doctor permission slip. Other may need the extra set of clothes for accidents.
2. Get a HUGE-BIG-GIGANTIC calendar. I have two children and I never seem to have enough room to write everything. I have gone COLOSSAL this year. I use a different color for each person in the family. Begin by placing all the school calendar dates. Then at open house add each child’s class dates too. Add your dates too- date night, girls night out, and other events that you may be traveling for. Write in therapies, baseball practices and swim championships. I use pencil for those dates that are tentative, nothing is worse than having to white out large areas, the smell is just awful.
3. Get your paperwork in order. There are several sites that tell you how you can, I find it easiest to get two things: a 2-inch three-ring binder and a big plastic box for each child. With one child on an IEP and one not I do the same for both (just skipping the parts that don’t apply to each child).
The binder should have a few key items: (1) A contact list that has your child’s school address and contact information of teachers, principal, nurse, and support staff. (2) Communication log. There are lots out there, but what you need is to write down date, who you talked to why you called and the result of the call. Print out emails, and keep ALL handwritten/printed communication. (3) Your most recent Triennial/initial IEP and the most recent IEPs since, Notice of meetings and evaluations. (4) School/classroom leveling assessments, State assessments, and other school or district level testing results. (5) Report cards and progress reports. (https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/special-services/ieps/download-iep-binder-checklist is a good one)
That box I mentioned, it’s for ALL the stuff that comes home. KEEP IT ALL. When something comes home, date it and throw it in the box. Later if you question progress or see that your child didn’t get credit for doing some work, you can pull it out and review. At the end of the year you can scan what you like, a few examples of poor work and toss it all. The past few years I have scanned my child’s work, added a few photos and made a Shutterfly yearbook. That way we have a year’s worth of memories, but not the piles of art/work sitting in a box.
4. Get knowledgeable. Reread (because I know you) your IEP. Get a copy of your school’s policies, district policies. Have the link to your state’s Educational Codes. Download a copy of IDEA and ESSA. A great policy checklist for back to school is www.wrightslaw.com/info/back.to.school.chklist.pdf
5. Know your referral system. Check out local supports that you may access when needed. Do you have a good babysitter list of 5 or more? Have you researched tutors and homework helpers? (Let me tell you, $7/hr high school student can be a life saver) How about a list of after-school activities your child may like to do? Do you have a list of support groups, blogs, and other resources to reach out to if you get into a pickle? https://www.specialmomsnetwork.com/back-to-school-checklist-for-parents-of-children-with-special-needs/ and http://www.oneplaceforspecialneeds.com/ are some good ones.
6. Special Factors. If you have a child with physical or mobility needs this blog posting from last year is a NOT TO MISS. http://mamatude.blogspot.com/2016/08/back-to-school-checklist-for-parents-of.html
So funny, and 27 useful tips on getting ready for school. Who knew that bussing could be such a pain in the tuchas.
Start the year together.
Now lets chat about your child. There are a few things you need to do together:
1. Set up routines. Set up routines about two weeks before school starts and practice. As a family we have posted routines, chores and rules. They are always stated in positive terms and in kid language. Example is:
I can get up, make by bed and play quietly after 6:30 am.
I can dress myself and be down to breakfast by 7:00 am.
We eat as a family with no technology to distract us.
I feed the cat and change his water.
As a family, we are ready for school at 7:20 and out the door by 7:30.
We help each other to get out to school on time.
I like my family.
Outline bedtimes, chores, dinner rules and such.
2. Make a child statement letter to the teacher. If your child can, have them write to the teacher telling them what they like to do, hobbies, and interests. Have them tell their teacher their goals for the year. Also write down what they are fearful about and don’t like. End the letter with them telling a few things they did over the summer. (Sandwich the negative between two positives) Add a photo and they are done. For parents, on the back write to them letting them know your child is on a 504, IEP, or has special considerations. THANK them in advanced for taking the time to read this and for working with your child. Make as many copies as you think you need as you have gen.ed., special Ed. PE, music, art, principal, classroom aide, librarian, and support staff).
3. Set up a homework station. This is important. It needs to be in a place that your child feels that they can work on their homework, and have everything they need-removing excuses along the way. So when you go shopping, get extra paper, writing materials and art supplies. Then, have them pick out poster paper, and art supplies to make a motivation poster. On it they can write quotes, add photos and words that help keep them motivated to study.
4. Set reasonable goals for the year. Make a poster that outlines things your child wants to do. Start off with things they want to do outside of school. Maybe it’s the ollie on their skateboard, or swim three laps without stopping. Then discuss social goals, or work goals. Maybe your child wants to start babysitting, so they need to take a babysitting course. Finally, focus on school. Discuss what they want and for those with IEPs, start discussing their goals with them. We took our motivation poster and part of it has our personal goals and our IEP goals listed (in kid language). That way he knows why he has special help and has buy in to working with his support staff.
That’s just a few of the things I cover in the class and hope that it helps you too.