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Starting the School Year With an IEP

Now that school has started in most parts of the country, it’s the “beginning of the year frenzy” for parents and students. New teachers, new classes, a list of school supplies to buy, lunch money accounts to fill, books, clothes, car pool rides, yada yada yada. It usually takes a few weeks to a month to find a groove where calm replaces the chaos.

Starting the School Year With an IEP

It’s stressful enough for most families, but if your child has an IEP and struggles in school, things can take much longer. Kids with learning disabilities do well with structure and calm, not so well with unfamiliar territory and new routines.

As parents, we need to stay calm, cool and collected, as tough as it might be. If our kids see us staying calm, and believe me they’re watching, it will transfer to them. It might only help a little, but it goes a long way.

One thing that many parents forget is that whatever was included in the IEP for last year transfers to the new school year. Just because it’s a new school, new grade level, and new teachers, everything is still in place until it is changed at the next IEP.

If the IEP states front row seating, or extra time for assignments and homework, it is still available. Many parents new to an IEP either forget, or don’t even know it works this way. If your IEP month is March every year, all Accommodations and Modifications remain in place from March to March, regardless of the teacher or school. If moving from elementary to middle school, things don’t change even though it’s a new school.

Another tricky area is staying on top of the IEP Goals and Objectives. Goals are what the student will accomplish from one IEP to the next. The Goals don’t end when the school year ends. The same is true for Objectives. Objectives are simply subsets of the overall Goals and should have a date for meeting each one.

Hopefully, most of us have kept the IEP in a place we can find it for review at the beginning of the school year. Now is a great time to review what should be provided and see where we are in relation to Goals and Objectives and Accommodations and Modifications.

If your child uses assistive devices or any tools that help them in school such as an Alpha Smart, CoWriter, WriteOutLoud, etc., they probably turned them in at the end of the year. Make sure you let the teachers know you need those back. Most of the time you simply sign them out and promise to take care of them until the end of the year. If you’re lucky, a resource teacher will have everything ready to go. If not, make sure to ask.

Back to School Night is usually scheduled in the beginning of the year. Make sure you read through the IEP before attending and take a copy with you. If possible, prepare to arrive early or stay late to discuss any concerns with the teachers pertaining to the IEP.

In my personal experience, having an IEP near the beginning of the year works best. Most schools schedule IEP Season in the Spring, but by that time it’s too late to review and discuss problems as the year is almost over. Having an IEP Meeting in October gives the teacher and student “most” of the year to work together focusing on what was written in the IEP. Having last year’s teacher write an IEP for next year’s teacher never worked well for us so we had it changed.

Guess what? You can change it. You can also schedule a meeting at ANY time of the year if needed. Meetings regarding school concerns don’t have to take place only once a year at a pre-determined IEP time. You won’t be able to schedule a meeting “tomorrow” but usually scheduling one in a week or two will work for everyone.

The beginning of the school year is always a hectic time of the year for families with an IEP. But many times it can be great to start fresh with a whole new set of surroundings. Kids mature quite a bit over the summer, and Fall is an awesome time to embrace the change with a positive attitude. Good Luck this year!

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