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Things to keep in mind when meeting with your child’s IEP team before school starts

COMPILED BY ABBY BERG, OT at Capernaum Pediatric Therapy, Inc.

Every kid is unique and it’s important to find out what works for best for your child. Try to think about what is the optimal length of learning sessions, the times that they are most engaged, and what helps them maintain focus.  What did or did not work well for your child last year? What motivates your child? Are there any new changes at home that would be helpful for the teacher to know? Let your child’s team know what you want your child to learn this next year and ask what the teachers expect him/her to learn.

Communicate this information to your child’s team.

Ask what strategies and tools the school can put into place to support your student in virtual learning. Work with your child’s teachers to identify and remove any learning barriers. Keep in mind that most phones and laptops have built-in technology that can aid kids with special needs. For example, read aloud or text-to-speech can help struggling readers, and speech-to-text can help struggling writers. If you’re not sure how to set these extra supports up on your technology at home, ask for help from your child’s team.

Many children need more help with focus during classes. It might be best to start with smaller amounts of time for an activity. Reward the child for accomplishments and then gradually increase the duration of learning sessions.  Many children will need an exercise break between lessons to help them stay focused.

See if there are webinars or video practice sessions to learn how to use the school’s software platform before school starts (e.g., SeeSaw & Google Meet). Visit your school’s website and sign-up ahead of time for the distance learning portal or read the ‘Welcome Back to School’ guide.

Questions to consider asking teachers:

  • What are the two or three best ways you plan to use to create a positive experience for my child this year?
  • If your child will be attending school in person, what are ways to help him/her adjust to wearing a mask this year?
  • How can we work together this year? What are your 3 major goals for my child this year–academically and socially?
  • Do you have regular office hours when I can contact you by phone?
  • Will you be giving regular feedback on how my child is doing?  How often will your teacher check-in with you and your student?
  • Can we make a schedule that works best for your child and family?

You are already a teacher. As a parent or guardian, try to remember that. Your children learn lessons from you daily. You already know how to communicate with them. Build on that. When you’re doing your best to help your child answer a math problem, or complete an experiment for their science class, and your way of solving the problem does not exactly follow the recommended approach, it’s OK. You’re teaching your child that there are multiple ways to approach and solve a problem, increasing their capacity to think creatively and flexibly. Rich learning opportunities abound in daily life, and every family holds valuable knowledge!

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PHOTO: ADD Advocate