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Your Child Has An IEP or 504 Plan: Be Prepared When School Starts This Fall

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Your Child Has An IEP or 504 Plan: Be Prepared When School Starts This Fall

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  1. Find your child’s IEP or 504 plan. Dig it out of the pile or pull it out of the drawer. It’s really hard to hold the school accountable for your child’s educational goals when you yourself don’t know what they are!
  2. Create a one page summary of “This is Joey” and list your child’s strengths and weaknesses, their likes and dislikes, and tips on how to communicate with them. Any help you can give the teacher and therapists about how to work with your child will help them, and your child, immensely by shortening the “getting to know you” period so more substantial progress can be made more quickly.
  3. Don’t assume the teacher has been given a copy of your child’s IEP or that they have read it. You must take responsibility for this and make a copy of the IEP for the teacher. Put the IEP, and your one page summary listed above, in an envelope and write the teacher’s name on it. When you go to open house, or some other time before school starts, drop the envelope at the school’s front desk and ask them to put the envelope in the teacher’s mailbox. Do not give the IEP to the teacher at open house, which is typically a very busy, crazy time for teachers because many parents are trying to get their attention. Instead, make an appointment to see the teacher during the first week of school to briefly review your concerns and ask questions.
  4. Before school starts, take your child and visit the school and his classroom. Walk the hallways, go to the cafeteria, etc. and reintroduce your child to school. Do this a couple times if necessary. At open house, let your child take the lead and see if he can remember how to get to the classroom by himself with other people are around.
  5. Get the email addresses of all your child’s teachers, therapists and the school administrators. Send them an email the first week of school letting them know you welcome back and forth communication and let them know the best way to reach you.
  6. Make an appointment during the first few weeks of school to meet with your child’s IEP team. During this meeting review the goals of the IEP and express your expectations for the upcoming year. If there are any lingering issues from the previous school year, this is the time to address them.
  7. Send a thank you note to every participant after the IEP meeting. The mileage you can get out of such a simple display of genuine appreciation is amazing.
  8. Make an appointment to go through your child’s cum (pronounced “cume”) folder at school. This is the official file of your child’s school records and other documents. Make sure you have a copy of everything that is in the file.
  9. On your calendar at home, mark down the end of the quarterly grading periods and make yourself a reminder to schedule an IEP review meeting at that time. You can have an IEP meeting as often as you feel necessary to discuss your child’s progress.
  10. Join your school’s SAC committee. Somewhat similar to the regular PTA, the SAC committee deals specifically with special education issues in each school and they can also have input on how to spend school dollars for special education. Talk to your school principal.
  11. Seek out and attend workshops and seminars – even if they’re online – about your rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The only way you will know your child is receiving all the services and help he has the right to have, is if you have a greater understanding of the law that gives you so much power.
  12. Special Note to Middle School Parents: Middle school is dramatically different than elementary school. Due to more complex class schedules and more teachers, many children with special needs fall through the cracks because there is no one as closely involved in supervising the child’s education like in elementary school. YOU must be your child’s voice and you must make the teachers, guidance counselor, principal, etc. aware that you are an involved parent and you intend to hold them accountable for teaching your child. This will involve a lot more follow-up on your part to make sure things are being done correctly.

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