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What Parents of Special Needs Students Should Expect as their Child Starts School

Sending your little ones is always a time of concern and anxiety for every parent. For those who have children with special needs, that concern is multiplied. Regardless of the need, it can make learning extra challenging. If you find yourself wondering what to expect when your student starts school, there are a few things you should be ready for as a parent. Read on to get a good idea of what is ahead, and how you can prepare.

What Parents of Special Needs Students Should Expect as their Child Starts School (2)Individual Education Plan (IEP) or 504 plan

Before school begins, contact the school and arrange a time to meet with the teacher. If your child does not have a plan in place, this is the time to make a request for an evaluation. Once evaluated, they will decide if your child is in need of modifications (IEP) or merely accommodations in the classroom (504). If your child already has a plan, be sure the teacher knows this, and that there is a copy of the plan on file at the school. Depending on your child’s challenges, they might be better suited for a special needs class at their school. Either way, talking with a representative at the school beforehand will ensure that your child is in the right class, with a plan in place.

Teacher’s Responsibilities

Once the plan has been put into place, the teacher and other school staff have a responsibility to follow this plan. Be sure to stay in contact with the teacher or counselor to be sure the plan is being followed. The teacher should alert the parents of any concerns she may have about your child in the classroom. Most teachers should be used to open communication like this, however, in some cases, you’ll have to initiate contact frequently to ensure you know how your child is doing at school. The teacher might have suggestions about what you can do at home, or how you can help with any issues.

Child’s Behavior

Depending on the special need, your child may be anxious for school, or they may be excited for the change. Many special needs children do better with routine, but those with anxiety disorders may have a more difficult time adjusting. Therefore, you can expect acting out either in school or at home. Acting out can come in many forms, just keep in mind that their behavior might reflect the stress they feel due to the change. Once your child is used to the daily routine of attending school, try your best to maintain a stable schedule in order to relieve any extra stress.

Academics and Therapies

With modifications in place, your child should have everything needed to succeed in the classroom. Kids that need special help, classes, or therapies during school will be pulled out of classes and may miss out on important things within the classroom. In other cases, your child might spend the entire day in a classroom with other special needs children. When you meet with the teacher or principal at the beginning of the school year, it is helpful to get a good idea of the classes or therapies available to your child, and what their school day will be like.

Parent’s Responsibility

Advocacy is the biggest responsibility of parents. Be informed. Know your rights. Know your resources. Be involved with your child and the staff. Don’t worry about bothering teachers or the school staff—they are there to help your child succeed, and this will only be possible with your help as well. Getting to know the school’s staff and having easy access to them will help calm any of your nerves and answer questions when issues arise. Developing a relationship with these teachers will allow you to act as an advocate for your child, and provide them with a good education.

While your special needs child can have challenges in the classroom, starting school doesn’t have to be a bad experience for them. Although you might experience a rocky start, know that there are resources and plans in place to make the process easier. Your child has a chance to be happy at school, and with your help, he or she will get to experience the joy of learning. The information for this article was provided by professionals at the University of Cincinnati who offer a masters in special education online.



Tim Esterdahl

Tim Esterdahl is the editor of IFCS blog. He is a married father of three and enjoys golf in his spare time.
Tim Esterdahl

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