It’s the end of summer vacation for most of our school-aged children. If you have a child with an IEP, panic sets in. New year, new teachers, new class, maybe even new school! While it can be exhausting to start new collaborative relationships with the school and staff, this is a very important first step; however, it is necessary to do some prep work early on so your child will be set up for success from the very beginning. My child is going into her last year of elementary school (5th grade), and over the years, I have developed a few documents that I update and bring to the “Meet the Teacher” event.
If you have never heard of writing a vision statement for your child, here is more information on why it is important: IEP Vision Statement Examples | Samples | Free Workbook (adayinourshoes.com). We have been preparing vision statements since she entered kindergarten. This vision statement is part of her “All About Me” page that has a photo, what she likes, what works and what doesn’t, and what she is working on. You can either print it out and bring it to all the teachers and team or you can email them, too. Don’t forget to include the paraprofessionals working with your student, as well as coaches and therapists. Link to “All About Me” page examples: 12 Free ‘All About Me’ Worksheets and Templates (adayinourshoes.com).
Other prep work to do is to go over the IEP and make sure that you ask any questions you may have when you receive the new teacher information. Ask the teacher about the preferred method of communication. Does the class use a specific app? Folder or email?
If you know your child has a difficult time with transitions, make sure to create social stories using their new school, classroom, teacher, desk, etc. to help prepare them for the big changes. This will involve visits to the school and classroom to become familiar with the environment, taking pictures as needed for your child. The teacher may even want to assist with these things knowing that it will help your child in the classroom.
Make sure you and the teacher are on the same page about accommodations, modifications, schedule of services, support, etc. If your child is using transportation, have all the information for that process available, too. Some students might need to prepare by using social stories or a visual schedule for the new morning routine. Get them excited about using their new backpack, school supplies, and clothes, and making new friends. Some families start practicing going to bed early and doing a morning routine to get everyone used to these changes.
Finally, if this is your first time sending your child to school and he/she is very young (3-4 years old), I know it can be overwhelming and frightening to send them away so tiny. The first day might be rough, and they might not like these big changes, but the more they keep practicing, the easier it will get. If you have any questions regarding your child’s IEP, please contact Magaly Diaz, Education Director, for support.