Yikes! It's School Time!
As parents, we’re used to getting our kids organized for school. But, when you’re parenting a child who benefits from a specialized learning plan, including an Advanced Learning Plan (ALP), a 504 or an Individualized Education Program (IEP), it is just as important that you stay organized.
Being prepared for conversations with school personnel and upcoming meetings will help the year to run smoother for both you and your child. Here are 8 steps that I suggest you take to prepare.
- Organize your paperwork
- Remind yourself of the challenges your child faces every day
- Celebrate your child’s strengths
- Organize your calendar
- Organize your documentation
- Building awareness
- Prepare your child
- Determine if you need to schedule a meeting immediately
Step 1 – Organize your paperwork
Gather all your paperwork in one place. Put it all in one binder and put your child's picture on the front. The following documents are recommended (if it applies):
- Last 2 ALPs/504s/IEPs
- Last 2 evaluations from the school
- Last 2 evaluations from a private provider
- Current Health Plan
- Current Behavior Intervention Plan
- Diagnosis letters
- List of medications and supplements your child is currently taking
- Past medications and your child’s reactions to these medications
- Any state, school district or school standardized testing
Step 2 - Remind yourself of the challenges that your child faces every day
Every child, no matter where they are in terms of school success, has challenges they must tackle to be successful.
- Jot down some examples of areas that your child struggled with over the summer.
- If there were behaviors that were concerning, note them to see if the school environment makes them better or worse.
- Read the previous year’s documents. By reading the documents from last year, you are reminded of what issues the school felt were important and what the school/district agreed to do to help your child.
Step 3 - Celebrate your child's strengths
It is important to acknowledge the strengths and accomplishments of our children. The accomplish may sound small like learning to tie your shoes, but this may be a huge accomplishment for someone with fine motor skill issues. Make sure to note what skills you or others observed for your child to accomplish this task (e.g., perseverance, problem solving, mechanical ability, etc.) Building on these strengths may help your child demonstrate knowledge and lead to more successes.
Step 4 - Organize your calendar
Put the review date for the ALP/504/IEP on your calendar. All of these documents are reviewed each year to make sure that they are up to date. Make sure you ask for a copy of the draft ALP/504/IEP at least a week before the meeting gets scheduled.
Step 5 – Organize your documentation
Determine how you are going to keep track of your correspondence and interactions with the school. You could use a daily calendar or keep copies of emails. Remember: if it is not written down, it doesn’t exist.
Step 6 – Build awareness
Make sure that all the teachers are aware of the ALP/504/IEP and that they know their role in meeting the requirements of the contract. This includes:
- ALP - the teacher’s role in challenging your child and helping the child meet their “affective learning goals.”
- 504 - the teacher’s role in providing accommodations.
- IEP - the teacher’s role in providing accommodations and helping the child meet their IEP goals.
Step 7 – Prepare your child
Make sure that your child is aware of the ALP/504/IEP and that your child knows their role in meeting the requirements of the contract.
Step 8 – Determine if you need to schedule a meeting immediately
Ask yourself these questions:
- Does my child’s Health Plan need to be updated?
- Does my child’s Behavior Intervention Plan need to be updated?
- Does the ALP/504/IEP reflect my child’s strengths and weaknesses?
- With the current plan in place, will my child be farther behind even if all the goals are met?
If you answered YES to any of these questions, email the school and request an ALP/504/IEP meeting.
- It’s ok to speak up and advocate on behalf of your child.
- You can call a meeting to discuss the ALP/504/IEP whenever you feel it is necessary. Sometimes you need to call an official meeting and sometimes it can just be an informative meeting.
- Call a meeting with the school before you get mad. If you see your child struggling or not being challenged, check in with school personnel to determine how to support your child.
- Document all meetings.