2014-2015 School Year Begins: Thoughts for Special Education

By now, you are already thinking about your child beginning school for the 2014-2015 school year.  It will not be long before the school buses begin to roll and your child begins to attend classes.  What should you be doing for your child as the new school year begins?

There are a few helpful things that you may want to do before your child begins soon.  You may want to review your child’s IEP again to gauge your expectations for the 2014-2015 school year. Do you think that you child will master or exceed the IEP goals and objectives earlier than expected?  If so, you may want to request an IEP meeting after the first or second semester of school to review and revise, if appropriate, certain goals and objectives. The IDEA allow you to request an IEP meeting at any time. You do not have to wait until April or May to develop an annual IEP.  This is not say that the school system will schedule the IEP meeting immediately.  I would give the school a couple of weeks, which is usually ample time for most school systems to schedule an IEP meeting.   On the other hand, if you think your child may have difficulty meeting certain  IEP goals and objectives, then you may also want to schedule a meeting after the first or second semester.  It usually takes a semester or two to secure a valid baseline of your  child’s educational performance.  Once you have a valid baseline on how your child’s is performing on his or her IEP goals and objectives, then you can ask the IEP to team to address your child’s current performance and review and revise,  if appropriate, the IEP goals and objectives.

Another area you may want to inquire about is assessments and testing.  As you know, when the IEP team meets every spring, there is a discussion of extended school year program or ESY.   You can secure a brief assessment of your child in the fall of the school year  to determine if he or she regressed educationally during the summer and had significant problems recouping material from the end of the previous school year. If so, then you will have a stronger argument to make for this school year that ESY is needed for your child next summer.  There are good reasons to consider assessments and testing for your child in the fall.  Periodic assessments and testing is helpful to determine what progress, if any, your child makes in a semester or two. A child with specific learning disability, for example, may exhibit more positive or negative educational progress over a shorter period of time than a child with severe intellectual disabilities. Children with a traumatic brain injury are also more likely to show more positive or negative educational progress over a shorter period of time. In any case, you should always weigh the benefits of additional or supplemental assessments and testing with your child’s educational needs.   Testing and assessments do not solve all problems for your child – but they may give you a snapshot at the time of your child’s current performance.

Finally, some children exhibit behavior problems at the beginning of school. There may be a reason for this, but sometimes it is not so obvious.  If your child begins to receive school behavioral  referrals such as  in-school and out-of-school suspensions,  and disciplinary notes to the parents, do not wait.  You should monitor your child’s disciplinary referrals carefully. If there is a continuing behavior problem  (e.g. 4-6 weeks or earlier depending upon the severity of the school discipline and violation of school rules and code of conduct), then you should contact the school to schedule an IEP meeting.  If the behaviors are left unaddressed, then usually they get worse and it may too late later in the school year to do anything meaningful to correct it. Be proactive and the results are more likely to be positive in addressing your child’s behavior problems.