Gay Jones & Kuhn Special Education Law Series
Back to School: Sharing Your Child's IEP
July 31, 2019
“The central struggle of parenthood is to let our hopes for our children outweigh our fears.”
-Ellen Goodman, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, writer, speaker commentator and nonprofit leader
Approaching the start of a new school year, we hear how anxious parents are about a new year and the new things their children will encounter. Change often means challenges for a child with special needs. For parents, it often feels like you just got in a groove with a teacher or school for the last year when everything changes again. And, it’s SO hot, which never helps!
As a parent, you can help kick off the new year well and make this a good year for your child, his or her teacher, and for you by doing a few proactive things:
Share the IEP
In talking with parents, we have learned that sharing your child’s full IEP with the teacher at the start of the school year can be a huge help. Some school districts give teachers the full IEP, while others only share certain portions of the IEP with teachers. For example, some schools may only provide teachers with the accommodations sheet from the IEP, so the teachers don’t have a child’s goals from their IEP. This makes it extremely difficult to help your child make progress towards those goals throughout the school year. The good news is that, as the parent, you can share the IEP with anyone you think would be in a position to help your child’s education. Simply make a copy and email it, or print a copy for your child’s teacher to drop by to him or her with a note. In your note, you can explain that you know how important the IEP is and you want to be sure he or she had a full copy. “We think this is something simple that can make a big difference for a child. We can’t always know what a teacher has been told about a child and their needs. This is a great way to make sure everyone starts on the same page,” says Pam Dollar, Executive Director of Mississippi Coalition for Citizens with Disabilities and Project Director for Mississippi Parent Training and Information Center.
Sharing your IEP directly with the teacher is also a good opportunity to introduce yourself and your child. Some parents use this opportunity to explain to their child that the teacher may need some help getting to know them better, explaining to the child that the teacher is new to him or her, and the child is also new to the teacher. Encourage your child to share what he or she would like the teacher to know about them—likes, dislikes, things that are upsetting, things that make them happy, what makes them nervous, what makes them feel sad or unhappy, etc. Parents too can use this introduction to share their concerns and express their ability to offer help when needed. Please be aware that teachers are working hard to get ready for all students, so starting on a positive note and making sure not to write an encyclopedia on your child will go a long way! Our office maintains a library of creative ways to share this information with your child’s teacher(s). We are happy to share these resources with parents.
Get to Know the School
A new school year can also mean new surroundings, people and outside factors that are unfamiliar or uncomfortable for your child. Do you know some schools allow you to come early prior to the start of school and meet the teacher, walk through the lunchroom, see classrooms, and generally survey the new landscape? This preview can really alleviate some of the new school year stress from navigating a new building with people everywhere! You can actually write this into your child’s IEP, but even if it is not in the IEP, you can still ask the school. Getting familiar with the school before the start of school is a great way to help your child feel more comfortable with the new year and avoid some of the first day of school stress and anxiety.
For questions regarding this article or any other special education law needs, email us at EducationLaw@gayjoneslaw.com
ABOUT GJ&K: Gay Jones & Kuhn PLLC offers a broad spectrum of legal and advocacy services for clients in Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama. Our focus on providing parents and children legal assistance with special education challenges is personal. Our goal is to collaborate with parents, students, teachers, administrators and providers to find ways to help every child be his or her best. For more information about GJ&K, visit www.gayjoneslaw.com.