How many parents haven't agreed to ride the roller coaster at least once with their kids? It's almost a "right of passage" - sitting for 3 minutes on a ride that you can't wait to end. Yet riding the roller coaster at an amusement park doesn't come close to the other roller coaster ride - the one that parents can't get off because it simply doesn't end. I can count on two hands the number of days school has been in session yet would need my hands and toes plus those of others to count some of what I've already been told...
- My child's teacher refuses to allow my son to have a midday snack even though it's on his IEP and has been documented by medical need.
- We explained that my daughter needs extra time to transition from class to class and it's in her IEP, yet we've already received a note saying that she's been late for class several times.
- Even though my child's IEP states that homework will be limited to 30 minutes per night, we're already spending double that amount of time and behaviors are starting.
Yes..it's the start of a new school year. New backpacks. New classmates. And a host of new issues that often combine with those carried over from last year. If your child is in special education, you know well that this ride is anything but short and you won't be on solid ground for a while.
Added to the challenges that inherently accompany having a child with autism, ADD/ADHD, or a learning disability comes slashed budgets, larger class sizes particularly if your child is in a regular education classroom, and fewer resources. Districts are stretched thin and so are teachers. Yet the reality is that it's the parents who are feeling the strain and the children are already showing it.
Every school year begins with the hope that it will be a good one. That services will be provided, supports will be in place, compliance with IEPs will occur, and collaboration will be the approach. And for many parents, this is indeed how this and every school year begins. Yet for many others, it's anything but.
A few things to ease the mounting pressure:
- If your child is already showing signs that things are not working, reconvene your IEP team now. It should be routine that, depending upon how your child is doing "out of the gate," you convene in September or early October. Remember that you can call an IEP meeting at any time so don't wait.
- If your child made progress or regressed over the summer, bring this information and data to your IEP team meeting. It's essential that everyone involved in teaching and supporting your child knows what has happened from June through September.
- If your child has been evaluated or re-evaluated over the summer and you agree with the findings, provide a copy of this report to your district before heading into an IEP meeting. You want to give them sufficient time to review the documentation so that you're all on the "same page" during your discussions.
And the most important piece of guidance is this - your child is continually changing and as such, your child's IEP may need to change as well. If you developed this year's IEP last year, think about the weeks and months that have passed in the meantime. Things that may have appeared appropriate in March may well be different in September.
If you have not been keeping notes at home, do so. Your observations and data factor into your child's educational plan so be sure you're watching, listening, and recording things as the school year unfolds. Document all conversations with school district staff - no "off the cuff" discussions apply.
Your child's greatest resource is you. Pace yourself. Be proactive. Focus on collaboration. And don't be afraid to ask the tough questions or to bring in outside support if needed. I read a great business quote that certainly applies here too -- "What you want, you will get. But you have to want it enough to go about getting it."