Monthly Archives: May 2012

School Transitions: Are You Ready?

This is the time of year when one school year winds down and we start thinking about the next year. Perhaps you have a child who will simply be moving from one grade to another in the same school.  Or maybe your child is facing a more dramatic transition such as:

  • Starting Pre-school for the first time
  • Entering Kindergarten
  • Moving from Elementary to Middle School
  • Beginning High School

It’s time to move from thinking to planning!  Take steps to make this transition as smooth as possible by gathering information about what might be coming up, and sharing important information about your child with the right people.

If your child is staying at the same school, find out what might be different for the coming year (e.g. class size, number of teachers/aides, daily schedule, curriculum, meal times, etc.).  Each of these factors could  impact your child and may require some changes in how your child’s needs are met.  You might also want to speak with the Principal about the classroom environment and/or teacher styles that are likely to be successful or unsuccessful for your child.  Hopefully, the Principal will use this information to make a good match when class assignments are made.

If your child is moving to a new school, you will still want to know the things mentioned above, PLUS,

  • Visit the new school to check out the physical layout and ask about a typical day
  • Request a transition IEP meeting to discuss and make decisions about any changes that may be needed to the IEP as far as accommodations, modifications, supports, services and/or goals
  • For many children, it is helpful for them to have an opportunity to walk through the new school and possibly see their classroom(s) and meet their teacher(s) sometime before school starts

Most importantly, stay positive and help your child feel good about the upcoming school year!

Do you have any other tips or ideas that could help parents?  Feel free to share them with us as we continue to move toward the 2012-2013 school year.

Using IEP Progress Reports

Parents of children with disabilities who have an Individualized Education Program, or IEP, should receive reports on their child’s progress toward meeting their IEP goals at least as often as report cards are issued.  The IEP team can require more frequent progress reports if appropriate, and document that decision on the IEP itself.  Many parents, however, are not quite sure what to do with the progress reports when they get them.

Some school systems, or good teachers operating on their own, do a great job of providing details about the child’s developing skills, continuing struggles and even some insight as to the strategies that they are using. Other progress reports are perfect examples of minimalism.  There will be a single letter such as a “P” to indicate that “the student is making progress at a sufficient rate to reach the IEP goal” or a “T” to indicate that “progress is limited due to more time needed.”  When the progress reports are adequately detailed, there may not be a lot of clarification needed.  When the report contains only letter codes, there will almost always be a need for some sort of follow up in order for the parent to get the information that they need to effectively participate in their child’s education.

Additional information can be obtained in a variety of ways.  Parents can request a conference with the teacher, during which they can view work samples and materials used for instruction.  Seeing the classroom setting may also be helpful to understanding why their child is responding or behaving in a certain way (good or bad).  For example, after noticing that the place where my son’s 1st grade class did “circle time” was right next to the classroom computers, it was quite clear to me why the teacher was having difficulty keeping his mind focused on the lesson and hands off the computers.

Parents can also request a telephone conference to get more information from the teacher and ask any questions that they might have, or perhaps exchange email messages to accomplish the same thing.  Most teachers will understand that requesting more information is simply a way for you to better understand what’s going on with your child’s education and how you can best support your child’s learning.

After gathering information, parents should ask themselves (and maybe the teacher) whether the child’s progress is satisfactory. 

If the IEP goals truly reflected what the team thought the child could reasonably be expected to do by the target date, there should be evidence/data that they are on pace to achieve those goals.  If progress is slower than expected, there should be some discussion about why that may be, and whether changes should be made in terms of instructional strategies, supports or services (type, amount, frequency, location, delivery, etc).  Those changes could require the involvement of the whole IEP team, or sometimes a change can be implemented for a trial period before determining that it should be documented on the IEP.

In any event, IEP progress reports, and any supplemental information, are intended to serve as a guide for parents and the rest of the IEP team.  They are an important tool to help insure that the child is receiving adequate benefit from his or her educational program.  Tools have no value if they are left unused.