by Erica DuPont
Many parents have mixed feelings about the school year coming to an end. Some look forward to the homework battle coming to an end for a few months others are fiercely trying to line up the perfect set of camps for their child in attempts to keep them busy and tired.
As an advocate and therapist, I too have different feelings about the end of the school year. It can be an exciting time, looking forward to summer plans, camps and trips, but mostly it is just the relief of knowing that a much deserved mental break is only four weeks away (for both me and the student)! On the other hand, I feel a sense of urgency to maximize the child’s IEP, ‘bulk it up’ for lack of a better term so next year’s teachers are well prepared, in advance, for “my child”.
IEP’s are only required to be reviewed annually, however, best practice would be to review them at the beginning and end of the school year (and as many times in between as needed to meet the needs of the child). Here are some tips to make sure your child’s IEP is ready for their 2015 school year without feeling rushed, pressured and overwhelmed come August!
1. Schedule an IEP meeting, before the end of the school year, and make sure the Present Level of Performance is up to date. The Present Level is the child’s current level of functioning in all educational areas including academics, social/emotional behavior needs, communication needs, healthcare and independent functioning needs. Your child will surely grow over the summer, but it is helpful for the IEP team to end the year with a current picture of your child’s functioning.
2. Discuss ESY (Extended School Year) Services. ESY is different from Summer School. You must have an IEP to qualify for ESY services. Many schools do not initiate the ESY conversation, so you should! If your child has an IEP and is either working on emerging skills, may show regression if a gap of time lapses between services, or is simply below level, your child may qualify for ESY. Depending on budgets, ESY services vary in time and length.
3. Remember, if your child is transiting to middle school or high school next year, it is that much more important that their IEP is current and up to date. Don’t wait until the annual review date to discuss your child’s needs. With a current IEP, it is hopeful that the student’s teachers will have a detailed preview of what to expect when working with your child next year.
4. If your child is transitioning to a Charter School, same rules apply. In other words, the school district must ensure that the charter school operators understand their legal obligations under IDEA. Charter Schools are not exempt from providing appropriate services to children with special needs. Your IEP should follow your child and be implemented at the Charter School. Another tip — often, not always, charter schools do not have a complete understanding of IDEA, they might not have an IEP team, or the school may feel that an informal discussion with the parents about accommodations and modifications replaces a formal IEP meeting. It is important that staff have training and a formal meeting be held so all team members understand how to appropriately implement your child’s IEP.
5. Lastly, if you are a real go-getter, schedule your next IEP meeting for the second week of school. By this time, the teachers will have had plenty of time to get to know your child and review their IEP. If they are truly interested in providing the best services to your child, they will be thrilled that you called a meeting to answer their questions about their new student!