The MLO Minute, By Michael Connolly, Esq., Supervising Partner of Special Education
It is hard to believe that summer is almost over and a new school year is about to begin in a few short weeks. 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 fully prepared and ready to go on the first day of school. If you didn’t participate in an IEP or 504 meeting at 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 year. This will help to make sure everyone is operating on the same page and to make any necessary tweaks 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.
In regard to your child’s new school schedule, make sure that you have a copy and that he or she is familiar and comfortable with 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 following his or her schedule may also provide 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 other key staff members (e.g., new one-to-one aide, new principal, new guidance counselor, etc.) before the start of the school year.
Transportation can always be an issue at the beginning of the school year. 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 don’t hear anything from the school, reach out and ask. 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. 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!