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The Year is Young

This is an excellent time to reflect on your child’s school year. The first quarter of the 2018-2019 school year has ended. If your child is in elementary school, you probably recently attended your parent-teacher conference. If your child is in middle or high school, you still have had ample opportunity to assess your child’s happiness, whether progress is being made, or whether frustration and aversion are settling in for the long haul.

The beginning of the school year can be bumpy. Teachers don’t know your child yet. They should have a copy of your child’s IEP or 504 Plan. You may have even had the good fortune to schedule a meeting with your child’s teacher(s) prior to the start of the school year. Nevertheless, it takes time for a teacher to get a handle on your child’s strengths and needs. Regardless of what is written in your child’s IEP or 504 Plan, teachers will form their own opinions once they have spent some time with your child.

Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that parents pay attention to what is happening in the classroom. Talk to your child. If your child is slipping through the cracks, do not wait and hope that next year will be better. You are your child’s best advocate. The time to address problems is now. If your child does not seem to be making progress or is having problems, either academically, socially or behaviorally, contact your child’s teacher. If you do not hear back from your child’s teacher after a few nicely worded attempts, follow up with the administrators and document it. Persistence is often required.

Nevertheless, in this quest for information, your approach and tone matter. I caution parents to always attempt to form positive relationships with their children’s teachers. Having a bad experience one year does not need to carry over to the following year. The beginning of a school year can be a fresh start, and in November, there is time to turn around what may have started as a rocky relationship between teacher and student, and between teacher and parents.

It is also important for parents to keep good records. As I explain to parents who call me, I always review a child’s educational record before going into any school meeting or contacting the school. Unfortunately, I often get calls from parents who don’t have their children’s records, or who had them at some point, but don’t know where they are now.

Do yourself a favor, and start organizing your child’s educational records, and any other records related to your child’s disability or special needs. When you are in the middle of a school crisis, you do not want to wait 45 days, as allotted under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), for the school to compile this information for you. The educational record of your child is one of the best assets that you have to advocate for your child.

Finally, the school year is less than halfway over. You have time to repair and rebuild relationships, and be an advocate for your child moving forward. By the time parents call me, they often feel that it is not possible. It is possible. I have seen it happen, and am available to provide assistance if necessary.

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