Ahhh…spring is in the air! Many parents and kids are thinking of summer and all of the fun things to do during break. For students, the last thing on their minds is going back to school in the fall. In fact, children often dread returning to school. For parents, however, now is prime time to be thinking of next school year, especially parents of children transitioning to a new school or building. Often, parents think that they need to wait until the beginning of the next school year to meet new teachers, visit classrooms, and address changes to their child’s program. Parents can make the transition to a new school year a smoother process by following these tips:
1. REQUEST AN END-OF-YEAR IEP MEETING
To ensure that new teachers understand your child’s needs on the first day of the new school year, request an IEP meeting near the end of the school year with current AND prospective teachers. To avoid the District denying this request because “next year’s teacher assignments have not yet been made,” notify the District early in the year that you will be requesting this meeting. At this meeting, it is critical to have input from current teachers which can then be shared with any new teachers who are able to attend. The input should include an overview of your child’s strengths, weaknesses, successful strategies used by the current teachers and recommendations for the new teachers. If prospective teachers are unable to attend, or if teacher assignments have not yet been made, request that all current teachers provide written input for you to share with the new team when teacher assignments are made for the new school year.
2. KNOW YOUR CHILD’S NEW SCHEDULE AND CURRICULUM
At the end-of-year IEP meeting, find out your child’s schedule for the fall – including the curriculum and/or any research-based programs that will be delivered to your child. This is especially important if any of the programs will be new to your child. Once you have this information, do your research and familiarize yourself with the programs so you can introduce them to your child. So many things are new to your child each school year. Having some familiarity with their new curriculum and the schedule may alleviate some of the stress and anxiety of managing a new school year.
3. TOUR YOUR CHILD’S NEW DIGS
It is natural for children to be fearful of the unknown prior to the start of school. To alleviate some of this fear, request a tour of your child’s new class or building. First, tour the class with your child when there are no other students there. Then have your child tour the class when there are students present. If your child is moving to middle school or high school, you can even request that the student spend the day in his or her new school shadowing another student. Knowing is half of the battle. If a child is familiar with their building and classroom on the first day of school, this can alleviate the majority of their fear of the unknown.
4. OBTAIN MATERIALS FOR YOUR CHILD TO RETAIN SKILLS
Children often start the new the school year with their brains still on vacation. To avoid this, ask current teachers for materials that your child can work on over the summer, whether or not your child is participating in Extended School Year. The materials should ideally be fun and interactive; otherwise, your child will simply do what they can to avoid completing the work. For example, teachers can have the child keep a journal of the fun things they did in the summer and then offer an incentive if the child returns in the fall with the journal completed. As a parent, you can also offer incentives if your child completes the work. The key is making sure that they do not view it as dreaded homework!
5. REQUEST A START-OF-YEAR IEP MEETING
Notify the District that you are requesting another IEP meeting at the start of next school year. At this meeting, again share the input provided by last year’s teachers. Ensure that each teacher has a copy of your child’s IEP and has an understanding of your child’s needs. Finally, inform the team of any new information that may be helpful in programming for your child.
Simply following these tips and strategies can make returning to school in the fall smoother for parents and for children. Enjoy your summer vacations, everyone – and remember… school is just around the corner!