January/February are typically brutal months - subzero temperatures, flu, snow days...everyone's counting the minutes until spring. But if you're the parent of a child struggling in school, this time of year is about far more than the weather and health. It's the halfway point in the school year which often means that school struggles morph into full-blown crisis situations. It doesn't matter whether your child is in 4th or 11th Grade, whether your child has Asperger's Syndrome or your teen has behavioral issues. What does matter is that it's time to ask yourself (and honestly answer), "How are things going?" For millions of children, the answer is not so well. And for the millions of parents standing behind their children, the realities are as harsh as the weather. And these harsh realities impact everything - home, work, families. Everything.
So now what?
If your child has not been evaluated yet is facing mounting struggles in school, now is the time to pursue an evaluation. School can conduct it, but it's best to pursue an independent evaluation conducted by a clinician of your choosing. It often takes weeks if not longer to secure appointments, so after you dig your car out of the snow, start moving on it.
If your child is on an IEP and you have not reconvened your team since the school year began, it's time to call a meeting. Prepare to discuss goals and progress. Prepare to bring any data you have collected (and yes, parents should be collecting data too). Prepare to advocate for changes, whether to services or supports ... whatever is not working needs to be reexamined.
If your child is on a 504, review all the accommodations to see if they are still appropriate now that half of the school year is behind you. Make sure the school is actually implementing the accommodations as well and doing so consistently, particularly if your child is in middle and high school where multiple teachers come into play.
If your child is regressing, time to focus on data. If your child is not making progress, yes...it's "data time" as well. It's essential that you are requesting and gathering data from school, from outside supports (e.g. private tutoring, speech therapy), and that you are also providing data from home. Remember that IEPs are not solely focused on academics - think social, behavioral, developmental, and functional needs as well. So if you're not seeing progress, whether within or outside of the school environment, this information needs to be shared with the IEP team.
Parents often focus on the here and now - makes perfect sense since if things are not going well today, it's difficult to look a few years (or months) into the future. Yet remember...the goal of an IEP or 504 is to help prepare your child for life after high school which goes far longer and includes far more than school. So if things aren't going well today, you still have half a school year left to make things right. Or at least, better.