Preparing to head back to school after a summer full of vacation and family time can be challenging. Planning ahead and making success a routine is one way that we can help make the transition in a positive and productive manner. My last article included some general information and ideas to help the family all happily head back to school. Today, I’ll be sharing some practices that have helped my students with special needs to prepare for a great start to the school year.
I have had the privilege of teaching thousands of students, every one unique and talented in different and wonderful ways! Throughout my tenure, I was able to help parents advocate and find the best help for their children by working together as a home-school team. Sometimes the team decides that taking the journey through the special education process is teh best way for the child to receive the resources that he or she needs. Whether that path involves an Individualized Education Plan or 504 Plan, communicating and planning ahead with your child’s teacher helps everyone.
The stories below are examples of practices I recommend at the beginning of the school year to help start the year with positivity. Names and other identifying information have been changed for confidentiality.
Alicia’s mother contacted our front office and requested to have her and her daughter come in to meet me and see the classroom before school started. I said ok, and emailed her to let her know some time chunks that I would be working in the classroom and available for a visit. Alicia had moved that year to our school district and did not really know anyone. She had suffered some major medical issues in the past, that had caused many absences from school, and a resulting anxiety disorder.
I met with mom and Alicia, I showed her our room (even though it was a bit of a disaster), I asked her where she wanted to sit, some things that she liked outside of school, and some other small talk. On the first day, I introduced her to two other girls in my class that I thought she would get along with, and had them all sit together. They were fast friends and had a great school year together!
–Ask for what your child needs, even if it is not ‘on the menu’ at school. Visiting the school to meet the teacher and see the classroom before school starts can be very beneficial for children with special needs. It is a busy time for teachers as well, so just call or email to make an appointment with the teacher while she is in her classroom. I have had parents bring in their kids to help me in the classroom, and that also is a great way to get to know the teacher and the space in which your child will be learning during the year.
Casey and his mother dropped in before school started for just a moment to say hi and introduce themselves. Casey’s mom later emailed to ensure that I peeked at her son’s IEP before school started, and she included a few stories of what has worked well with previous teachers and her child. She said that she would be emailing each week, so that she can best support her son and our teaching at home. Casey’s mom also checked in and said hi in person a few more times over the first few weeks of school.
–Personally reaching out and being proactive about your child’s needs helps to build that strong home-school team relationship. Ask your teacher(s) what is the best way for them to best communicate your child’s successes and challenges. Most schools have a grade/assignment reporting system, and every teacher utilizes it differently. For me, a weekly email from a parent that I can quickly respond to with the week’s activity was what I found to be the most efficient. Just check in with your child’s teacher and see how you can best work together.
No matter what your child’s special needs are, some extra planning and advocacy will be beneficial as you work together with the school team for your child’s best and brightest education. Your child’s IEP or 504 will have goals, accommodations, and modifications in place, but adding a human voice to the written words on the page is a great way to build the relationship with your child’s educator(s).
Work together, share ideas and insight, communicate often and well, and have a wonderful school year of learning and growth!
Mrs. Schreiner aka your pal, Ellie