A recent message included tips for a successful school year. Some of this I have shared in the past, so I’m only going to share the ones I haven’t hit on already this year. I hope there is some information you can use to make the year go more smoothly.
Reread your child’s IEP.
If you don’t know what is on your child’s IEP how are you going to know if your child is receiving all they should be? Visit with the teacher. Make sure they understand what is expected of them, from you, and from your child. This sounds so simple, but you would be surprised the number of times that your child’s lack of services or help is just a lack of communication. So many times we get the idea that it’s us against them. That is the wrong attitude. It is a team, so make it a team effort. You be the leader.
While you’re at it you need to make sure that the teacher has a copy of the IEP. If your child has a communication notebook (I’ve talked about this in past articles), make sure that the IEP is included in there.
Another thing I would do is check to make sure that your IEP has actually been changed. If you talked about it in the meeting then it should be changed, but don’t assume that it will be. I would make a list of all changes that should be made, and then double check to make sure it was actually done.
Make a List of Important Things About Your Child .
I think this is a great idea. Jennifer actually took this a step further and wrote a letter telling about Konner and what he likes and dislikes. This gives the teacher a little insight into what kind of child he is. It gives them some personality and not just a label (autism). The teacher can see that in many ways they are just like other kids. They have similar tastes.
Prepare to Deal with Potential Problems Early.
The sooner you can get to potential problems the sooner you can move on and have a “normal” school year. If you address problems early it can also give the school, teachers, child, and yourself time to adjust.
Resolve Old Concerns and Issues.
If you have concerns or issues that were not resolved during the last IEP meeting, request another IEP meeting immediately. Try to resolve these issues and concerns before your child begins to have problems this year.
Get a New Assessment. “Consider getting your child's skills tested very early in the school year. Where are your child's skills on standardized educational achievement tests? Use these scores as baseline data. You can compare these scores with scores obtained at the end of the year to measure your child’s progress.” It’s always good to know where your child stands academically.
Make a communication notebook. Again, I’ve written about this in the past, but you can use the notebook for many different things. Wrightslaw.com talks about using “the notebook as a “contact log” to send messages to the teachers. Write a sentence or two to the teacher(s) every day. Do not make your child the bearer of messages about problems at school. Make an extra copy of your log often in case the notebook is lost.”
This is also a great place to share with the occupational therapist, speech therapist, paraprofessional, etc. You have to keep communication with everyone. There is no other way of knowing what is going on with your child unless you are there beside them all day, which we all know is not an option for most of us.
You want to makes sure that you correspond too though. Don’t think this is just a place for the teacher to let you know what is going on at school, or the therapist to keep you up to date on what is happening in sessions. You have to let them know what you are doing at home. Jen is really good at keeping a daily log of what Konner does at home. This lets others know that we are helping him, but it also keeps a good journal to use for data. For instance we knew that Konner was having a tough time on Wednesdays, so we looked back to help us determine if there was something special happening on Wednesdays. We found that Boy Scouts was that night and was throwing his scheduling off a little. These are the little things that can help you help your child have a smoother day.
Again, I hope that this information is helpful. Make sure that you visit www.wrightslaw.com and subscribe to the email. The amount of advice they give for IEPs is unbelievable.
In addition, if you type in IEP cheatsheets into a search engine you will come up with lots of information. There is also an app for iPhone and iPad called IEP Checklist with information to help make the meetings better. Both give some information about what you really need to include as well as things to expect from your IEP team.
Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be an expert. I’m just a father who is trying to learn as much about Autism as I can to help my child. I hope that you all can learn from me, and I from you. I ask anyone who has questions or comments about something I have written, or autism, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will try to answer questions as I have time, and if I find it interesting enough I may touch on it in my column. You can also find all columns archived at blogspot.com.