Whew!! The first weeks of school.
Getting supplies. New schedules. Meltdowns. New teachers. New bus routes & drivers. New stacks of school paperwork. Pat yourself on the back—you did it!!
But WAIT—you’re a parent to a child with a disability, which means there’s always a little (a lot) more to do. Lucky you.
Trust me, if you do these two things now that the dust has settled a bit, you will thank yourself later in the school year.
Update your school contact list
Update your phone contact list and email address book with any new teachers or service providers at your child’s school. At the very minimum your contact list should include:
- Grade level Assistant Vice Principal
- School Special Ed Chair /Diagnostician (this is the person who schedules the IEP/ARD committee meetings are answers questions about the district special ed department at the school)
- District Special Ed Department Main Number
- District Head of Special Education
- Related Service Providers
- APE (Adaptive PE)
- Social Worker
- LSSP (Licensed Specialist in School Psychology) or Psychologist
- Music Therapist
- Teachers—all the teachers. Even if your child is in a more restrictive setting like life skills or a behavior classroom, find out who the ancillary or non-academic teachers for things like music, PE, library, etc. are and put those in your contact list as well.
Give each teacher a BRIEF Portfolio and/or IEP List
Unfortunately, most teachers only really look at the accommodations sheet and the particular academic IEP goal that they are working on. If your child social skills, speech, or behavior goals that are supposed to be implemented across all settings, the teachers do not see those and don’t realize they are expected to implement them.
I’m not trying to offend the good teachers who do look at them, I’m just giving you my real-world experience as a mom & advocate who has had clients in 6 different districts in the Houston area. I was trying to make sure those IEP goals I fought so hard for in the IEP/ARD meeting were actually being implemented. The majority of the teachers I gave copy of those goals to had not even seen them. They usually only see the accommodations list and their specific academic goals.
- Create a BRIEF, strength-based portfolio/profile of you child for teachers
- 1 page double sided MAX for general ed teachers
- 5 page MAX for PPCD, Life Skills, Behavior, & Resource teachers
- Think of this like an instruction manual or cheat sheet for teachers about your child
- For kids who aren’t as verbal, you can create something like an “all about me book” that includes more pictures & more personal, family background and history information
- For kids in general education, summarize in bullets on ONE DOUBLE SIDED PAGE
- Their special interests
- Any special achievements over the summer
- Techniques from past teachers that worked well
- IEP summary
- Contact information for any specialized district support personnel working with your child
- Any specific information related to your child’s specific manifestation of his/her disability
- Have the teacher sign & date a sheet of paper that you keep that states that you gave them information about how to work with your child.
I’ll give you an example of how this was really helpful for me.
When I did this for my son in sixth grade as he entered a new school and made the leap to junior high general ed, I went before school to meet the teachers and give them their Karl instruction manuals. A few weeks into the semester, my son began to have problems with his general ed English teacher. As the problems escalated and the teacher was not responding to my emails, I did a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request to find out what was going on.
I found that he had been emailing the principal in an effort to lobby to have my son removed from his classroom—threatening that he would contact the teacher’s union. He also was trying to give my son detention for an IEP related issue. I filed a level 1 written complaint with the principle and provided a copy of the signed receipt of information that the teacher had received. It was clear that the teacher had not made any effort to use the district behavior supports available to him.
After the complaint, the teacher developed a completely new attitude. He even gave my son an award at the end of the school year for the most improved student.
On a positive note, the math teacher availed herself of the resources I provided about how to teach students with high functioning autism (a video lecture by Tony Attwood), and thanked me for giving her effective strategies that she never would have thought to use because they seemed counter-intuitive.
It may seem like too much effort, but trust me, you’ll be glad you did.
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