With all the uncertainty in the world going back to school has us all more anxious than ever. If you’ve been following me you know I’m pushing for remote learning plans being added to the IEP, you know I’m telling you to ask for a draft copy of any IEP data and you know to create a parent input statement.
Today I want to give you 5 tips to feel prepared for special education this year beyond all those things you already know.
Introduce your child to their team and new teachers.
Even if your child knows their team, things have changed since we left school in the spring. You’ll want to include any progress or regression you’ve noticed, but also paint a picture of who your child is. What motivates them? How do they learn best? What are they good at? How should the teacher handle it if they are struggling? It doesn’t need to be anything lengthy, but email it over prior to school starting. The IEP should include your parent input statement but this allows a snap shot of your kiddo so that going in on the first day, everyone has an idea of where your child is at. Even if school is remote, this is still important! Maybe even more so, because connection will be lacking in a virtual environment. Introducing your child will help the teacher build rapport despite the circumstances.
Make sure everyone has a copy of the IEP.
Email it to the team and teacher if you have to, but don’t assume the school has provided the team with the IEP. This actually happened to my child, the day before school and the teacher wasn’t even aware he had an IEP. Not the teachers fault, sometimes things get lost in the shuffle. In our case there was a change in roles and the person who normally took care of this, wasn’t in the building anymore. Things happen! It’s totally ok to take charge of your child’s IEP and make sure everyone is informed. Be nice though… these teachers have a really tough job this year! Let’s start the year out on the right foot with positive interactions even if there was some negativity before. We can always start over.
Discuss new changes with your child.
School will look really different than it ever has before. If your child is in class, discuss what social distancing may look like, expected schedule changes, masks during the day, how they can advocate if they need a mask break. Practice wearing a mask and keeping a safe distance. We do not want to scare our kids, but teachers can only do so much. Regardless of your personal feelings on social distancing and masks, the words you use to discuss this with your child will make a difference in how they handle it. For remote learners, set up a school area that isn’t the kitchen table when possible. Kids compartmentalize things so it’s not surprising when our kids are struggling to learn at home. Giving them a designated space for learning makes the whole thing more of an “experience” and routine. The kitchen is for eating, but my desk is for school. Also, practice doing zoom activities. Have your child call a friend or family member on Zoom and doing an activity together. Start small with 20 minutes and increase to an age appropriate amount of time. If they begin to understand that zoom is for teaching, they will adapt easier to zoom for school.
Establish a routine prior to school starting.
This seems like a no brainer, but getting into a wake up and bed time routine a few weeks prior to school will help their brains prepare for learning. It is not secret that kids who aren’t getting enough sleep may struggle with behavior during the day. Remote or in person, this same rule applies. If possible ask your school for a daily schedule so you can abide by breaks, snacks, lunch etc. Also, getting our kiddos up and dressed even for remote school will help them get into the mindset. We are setting the stage for successful school days!
Pull out your child’s IEP and review IEP goals.
Your child’s IEP should not change to accommodate Covid schooling. That is what the remote learning plan is for that we can add to the IEP. For in class kiddos, ask the team what will change due to the new health requirements. Will there still be small groups pulled out? Will they do more push in? Will they be consolidating minutes throughout the week? Will your child be required to wear a mask? Will the location of services change? You need to understand how the changes affect your child’s day. For remote learners, how will they receive services? Who is keeping track of data? What is the plan if zoom isn’t successful for your child? Can you do walk in services? And keep your own data. What is working, what isn’t working, what dates did you attempt zoom services and was it appropriate. If we end up needing these minutes to be made up down the road, your data will be important. Keep track and compare progress to IEP goals. Is this working? Is this method of services effective and appropriate for your child? Don’t be afraid to ask for something different. Despite these strange times, schools are still responsible for providing your child with a Free Appropriate Public Education. If something isn’t appropriate, we need to communicate that with the team.
Overall, please be kind to your child’s teacher and team. Despite how you may feel about the changes in school, your child’s teacher did not create this plan, heck they may not even agree. We are all under a ton of stress and should be understanding of how challenging this is for all involved. This does not mean, don’t ask for what your child needs. You NEED to be asking for everything your child needs, in writing or it didn’t happen, and getting creative with your child’s team to make sure your child’s unique needs are being met.
If you are unsure on if your child’s IEP is setting them up for success this school year, let’s chat. Please reach out for a second opinion. We want progress this year despite the changes at school, and YOU are the person in charge of advocating for your child’s unique needs because YOU know them best.