Florida's First Choice for Autism Support

By: Erica DuPont, LCSW

If you have a child with an IEP or 504, please do not plan to wait until the first day of school to call a meeting to review their needs, modifications and accommodations.   Consider this scenario; you have been called in for backup as a pizza chef. A customer called in an order for 30 pizzas; however, these are not your ordinary pizzas. These pizzas are to be made without cheese, sauce or flour. In addition, they must be kept at a certain temperature in order for the customers to be able to eat the pizzas. I’ve attempted to make pizza before, it wasn’t round and didn’t taste like New York pizza, but I was able to put something together. However, if I had to figure out how to make a special pizza with these limitations and was provided with these last minute accommodations without the proper considerations for materials, time or manpower, these customers would be left with little more than disappointment and hunger…

Point being, as I’m sure you have concluded, these pizza makers are your child’s teachers. Most teachers are doing the best they can with what they have. Chances are they are also juggling several orders at once, adjusting to new expectations and working within the limitations put on them by their supervisors – trying to provide your child with the best, individualized, warm slice of “pizza” or education they can. It makes sense that provided more time to prepare research, ask questions, and learn more about your child and their needs in general, there is a better chance that your child will benefit from the teachers efforts to best serve your child.

Consider requesting a meeting before school starts, before all the other orders are in and changes are being requested. Request that the entire team of professionals involved in working with your child be present. This includes the ESE teacher, regular education teacher, guidance counselor, school psychologist, social worker, speech and language therapist, and the principal.
It is helpful to have all of your questions, concerns, strategies, and what has worked in the past written down. This will help you stay on track and keep the meeting productive and focused. There is no doubt that no one knows your child better than you. YOU really are your child’s best advocate. However, you are human and you are a parent. Both of these things make you prone to being more emotionally involved in the process. Strongly consider bringing another person to any and all IEP meetings with you. Qualified advocates are available but sometimes just bringing another body to take notes and be supportive is also helpful.

Another tip to consider is to have your child fill out information about themselves. Perhaps a fill in the blank type of letter that helps the teachers understand what works best for them, what they feel they need and what they hope their school year will look like. I remember a student once saying, “ Whenever my teacher says, ‘in other words’ I really start listening because I know she is going to rephrase it in a way I can understand”. Most kids know what type of environment they thrive in and what type of teaching style best meets their needs. Most kids also know what has not worked in the past.

Some other examples of good information to share might be:

-Things that I really enjoy are…

-Things that really bother or annoy me are…

-It would be helpful if…

-These are things that might be triggers for me…

-I think it’s important that you know…

-Here is how you can tell if I am getting frustrated…

-These are some things that help calm me down…

Give this year’s teachers a chance and a head start by preparing them as much as you can on your end.

Best wishes as summer comes to an end and the new school year begins.

ProTherapyPlus, in additional to counseling services also provides many levels of IEP and school advocacy services. IEP trainings and seminars are also scheduled throughout the year.

By: Erica DuPont, LCSW



Comments on: "Guest Blog: Start off Strong this School Year" (1)

  1. Reblogged this on Brothers & Buddies and commented:
    I thought this was a helpful post as schools start back in our area. Our school usually does this when progress reports come out, but that might not be the best option. Perhaps, setting up a meeting a week before school starts would be more helpful for everyone. This is certainly an idea I will keep in mind for next year as the boat has already sailed for us to do it this year.

    I also like the idea of having my child fill out an “All About Me” sheet for the teacher. I feel it helps to here it from the child. Often times we parents think we know what the triggers, likes and dislikes are, but we may be surprised as our child’s answers.

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