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Planning for School, Step 2: Getting Organized

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of articles. Click here to read the first one.

By now you should know which plan your school district has selected to begin the school year. If you are not sure, contact your child’s school or check the district website. We do know that every student will experience some degree of remote learning, so you are probably wondering how this affects your child’s IEP and special education services.

At this moment, no one can tell you exactly how your child’s IEP will be implemented. But we do know that IEPs will be in place and implemented as part of this coming school year. In preparation for when that information becomes available and teachers and administrators are prepared to answer your specific questions at your child’s school, there are things you can be doing.

 

Familiarize Yourself with Your Child’s IEP

  • Make sure you have a copy of your child’s current IEP handy. If you do not have it, contact the school now and request a copy.
  • Prepare to dig in to the IEP. You will feel more prepared to advocate if you take the time to look over your child’s IEP. As you read through it, consider highlighting or using sticky notes or taking notes separately.
  • Highlight or note your child’s goals, accommodations, how much Specially Designed Instruction time they would typically receive to implement the current IEP and Related Services (Speech and OT).
    • We have created an IEP Elements Organizer Form you can use to find and record the key components of the IEP. Click here for a sample form. Click here to download a blank form.
    • The NC Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) created a “Test IEP” document with helpful tips that explains each section of the IEP. This is a wonderful way to familiarize yourself with your child’s IEP. This sample IEP is in the new version called ECATS. Even though the forms look different, the content remained the same.
    • Present Levels of Academic and Functional Performance should be based on your child’s March levels, when the stay-at-home order was activated, unless a new IEP was created after that date.
    • If you are unsure about your child’s IEP content, please contact your local ASNC Autism Resource Specialist for support and guidance.
  • Make a list of ALL supports, specialized structure, strategies, and technology that supports your child in the school setting. These things may not be listed in your child’s IEP if they receive the majority of their instruction in a separate setting. These may include, but are not limited to:
    • Visual schedules
    • Individual work area
    • Extended time
    • Modified assignments and alternative learning materials
    • Manipulatives
    • Sensory breaks and sensory supports

 

Organize Your Thoughts, Questions, and Concerns

While schools might not have the details today to tell you exactly what your child’s learning experience will be at the start of the school year, they are working hard to consider every child’s needs. In the meantime, now is a great time for you to organize your thoughts, questions, and concerns. When schools are prepared to discuss your child’s specific services and instruction, you will be ready to advocate.

Start writing down questions as you think of them, so you are organized when teachers are accessible for planning with you. The IEP Organizer Form noted above provides places for your IEP-specific questions, but your questions may reach beyond your child’s IEP. Here are some things to consider. You will undoubtedly have others, which is okay:

  • How do we navigate challenges at home with parents’ work schedules and availability?
  • What will in-person learning look like for my child? (may not apply to all)
    • Will students be wearing a mask?
    • How will social distancing be reinforced?
    • How will transitions be handled?
    • How will lunch and snacks be handled?
  • What will remote learning look like for MY child?
    • What is the schedule for classes?
    • How will my child participate in classes?
    • How will my child get materials and complete assignments?
    • How much time will be spent in direct instruction? Who will provide the direct instruction?
    • How much time will be expected for independent work?
    • My child does not do well with digital learning. Can my child receive an accommodation for this?
    • Are there any options if remote learning does not work for my child?
  • IEP implementation questions
    • Is it possible to work on all of the current goals?
    • What is the plan for getting visual schedules, cues, and other visual supports in place for remote learning or online/virtual school?
    • How will accommodations be provided?
    • How does the current learning format impact the amount of Specially Designed Instruction time my child receives?
    • How will progress for my child be measured?
  • Parent concerns: The IEP includes a section where you can list your concerns. It is worth making a list now. This can include academic as well as social, behavior, and emotional concerns. This section is personal to you and your child. This does not need to be an essay, just a list to help everyone on the IEP team be aware of your concerns as they relate to your child’s education.

 

Prepared to Advocate for Your Child

Taking some of the proactive steps outlined in this blog will help you feel more prepared and better organized for when your child’s school and teachers are ready to discuss your child’s specific needs. School systems and community design vary across our state and from school district to school district. Many do not have the space for all of the regional programs that students need while maintaining required social distance to protect both teachers and students. It will take the first several weeks of the school year for your child’s school team to get to know your child and which strategies work best for supporting their education both at home and, if applicable, in the classroom. A little patience will go a long way. But being familiar with your child’s individual needs as they relate to school is the next step for advocating for their Free and Appropriate Public Education.

 

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