Does your child have an IEP? If so…I’ve put together an advice list from my experiences. A dozen ideas for beginning the year.
- Show the IEP. Yes, I know it’s hard – but if they are able (and mature enough) show your child their IEP. Don’t hide it or keep a secret. Let them know what their goals are – they need to know what they are working towards AND why it’s important.
- Prepare. It’s one of my many mantras. Prepare what you can prepare for. That way if you have a surprise the ‘ordinary’ is already taken care of and you have time and energy to deal with a curveball.
- Rehearse. We begin ‘school bedtimes’ and routine at least two weeks before school actually begins. I also ask (and usually receive) for us to come to an ’empty’ school to walk the schedule, find the locker, see the classrooms, and sit in the chairs. The unknown is inherently scary. The first year I asked for this the Principal told me that they already have an ‘orientation day.’ I reminded her that my child was not any child – the overwhelming nature of this orientation day (kids, noise, smells, sights, etc) would certainly not ease his anxiety or allow him to concentrate and learn. She had an ‘aha’ moment and agreed. When considering your rehearsal – ask the Principal and (if possible) teachers in your district to meet you in the building. They are back to work so they should be around. Don’t be afraid – what’s the worst they will say? No? Okay…well, at least you tried.
- Introduce. Introduce yourself to ALL of your child’s teachers. Their classroom teacher isn’t enough. Make yourself known. Be present and recognizable. Invite ALL of the teachers into your world by telling them about your child. (See The Best $85 Ever)
- Communicate. When you introduce yourself ask those teachers to communicate any issues/problems directly to you. Provide all contact information – email, phone(s), Facebook, LinkedIn – the mode doesn’t matter, but provide several.
- Be positive. As you communicate be positive. Remind teachers that you are a part of your child’s team. You not only want the experience to be positive for your child – but ALSO for the teacher. I usually explain that nothing will be a surprise, I’ve been the mom for life – I know how he can be, both positive and challenging.
- Treats. Always, always take treats in the first week. Always, always extend your thanks for their hard work. (See Catching Flies)
- Benefit of the Doubt. As you begin the year give teachers the benefit of the doubt. I’ve been there – the first couple of weeks are fairly excruciating as they are dealing with new personalities, settling in, summer exhaustion, and loss of learning. They may not be responsive during these first couple of weeks – just give them a break and time to settle in.
- Check-Up. Decide on a check-up plan and communicate that to the teacher(s). Tell them you will be checking in with them every couple of weeks, once a month, or whatever seems appropriate. This way they are aware that you are involved and serious about partnering in your child’s educational plan.
- Available. Be available and willing when teachers ask you to collaborate and problem solve. Be part of the process – and bring snacks.
- Respect All. Don’t only reach out to your child’s teachers – make yourself known to other teachers, bus drivers, custodians, lunch personnel, aids, study hall supervisors, substitutes, and secretaries. The more people you have in that school that know your child and understand their needs…the better the experience. (See Community of Understanding)
- Smile . Smiles cure a whole lot for your child, his or her teachers, and you. As my husband says, “Fake it ’til you make it.”
If all that fails and you’re the praying kind, pray.