Back To School: A Guide for Special Needs Parents #netde #eduDE

It’s August 1st, and for many of us this means a return to school in the next thirty days. Most of us should find out what teachers are children will have this month. Once you do, it may not be a bad idea to contact the special education case manager at your school to set up a brief transition IEP meeting. Summer can be a long time for special needs kids, and teachers need to be aware of any new events that may have occurred. If your child is going to a new school this school year, I would recommend having an IEP meeting as soon as possible.

Aside from the frenzy of shopping for school supplies, I would talk to your child about any apprehension or fear they have for returning to school. Find out what their true fears are, whether it is bullying or an increased workload in school. Reassure them, but also watch them and let the school team know what those feelings are.

For parents who may have children on a 504 plan, take a hard look at the plan to make sure it is the best fit for your child. If they qualify medically for an IEP, you may want to take those first steps to request one and this would be requesting an IEP in writing now. A fact to always remember is that a medical diagnosis doesn’t guarantee an IEP. The purpose of an IEP is to give special education if the disability or condition affects educational outcome. You don’t want too much time to pass in the school year where your child could be getting accommodations that can benefit their educational outcome.

Most states have different timelines for the IEP process, and parents need to know what those are. Do some research on your state DOE website to determine what you need to know. IDEA law states that if a parent doesn’t agree with an evaluation the school does then you can request an independent evaluation at the school district or charter school’s expense. The school may deny the request, but you can file for due process in that event.

My best advice is to work together with the school. Let them know about your child if they don’t already. Schools usually don’t respond well to demands, but at the same time you need to advocate for your child. It can be a very slippery slope, but don’t go to extremes unless you absolutely have to.

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