The MLO Minute: “Some Practical Considerations for the Start of Another School Year” —
Believe it or not, summer is almost over, and a new school year is about to begin in just a short couple of weeks (and for some it may have already begun). For families of students with special needs, the start of the school year brings with it a host of considerations and preparations beyond shopping for school clothes and supplies or trying to fit in that last vacation of summer.
Chief among those considerations is making sure that your child’s IEP or 504 plan is up to date and ready to be implemented on the first day of school. For students with disabilities, it is critical to have their required supports and services in place on day one, particularly if your child is transitioning from one building to another or suffers from school-based anxiety. If you did not participate in an IEP or 504 meeting toward the end of the previous school year, you may want to consider reaching out to your child’s school for a meeting just prior to, or shortly after, the start of the school year. This will help to make sure everyone is operating on the same page and to make any necessary adjustments to your child’s program. To the extent there have been any relevant changes in your child over the summer (e.g., medication changes, behavioral changes, tutoring, private testing or evaluations, etc.) you want to be sure to update your school before the year begins and provide any available documentation or reports.
Make sure that you have a copy of your child’s new class schedule. Be certain that your child is familiar and comfortable with it, as well as feeling confident navigating the building. If you have not received the schedule or teacher assignments at least a week or two before school starts, reach out to your child’s building and ask about it. For older students who may need to navigate classroom changes throughout the day, or for those who may be moving to a new building, a tour and/or the opportunity to have a few “practice runs” with the new schedule may also prove to be very helpful. For children experiencing anxiety about the new school year, it may also be very beneficial to arrange for an opportunity for them to meet their new classroom teacher or teachers, or other key staff members (e.g., new one-to-one aide, new principal, new guidance counselor, etc.) before the start of the school year.
In recent years, transportation has become a huge issue not only at the beginning of the school year, but often throughout, given the overall shortage of bus drivers. Not being picked up by the bus, being late to school, or being picked up by the wrong bus can be a particularly traumatic event for a student with special needs (and their parents). While there is no way to prevent transportation issues from occurring, if your child requires special transportation or certain supports while on the bus, you want to make sure you know your child’s bus number, bus stop, pick up/drop off times, and route a week or so before school starts. If you do not hear anything from the school, reach out and ask. You want to confirm with your school district that the school’s transportation department/service is aware of any accommodations that your child requires. It is also always a good idea to contact your school’s transportation department ahead of the school year to make sure all procedures are set and in place to begin, particularly if your child is changing school buildings or is attending an out of district placement.
Issues at the beginning of the school year are likely to occur; however, a great deal can be prevented or lessened. The above considerations can be extremely helpful in reducing any concerns that you and/or your child may have. Most importantly, never hesitate to reach out to your school right away to work collaboratively so the student has a successful transition into the new school year!
Our firm has been advocating for the rights of students with disabilities for over 40 years. We provide free consultations in all special education matters, and most matters are handled without charge to families for hourly fees. Please feel free to contact us by CLICKING HERE or by calling any of our numbers on our website.