School Readiness - Advocating for Your Child
Is your child starting school in September?
The experience of having your baby starting school while exciting, may be daunting. A little preparation goes along way. Parents have many questions regarding helping your child born prematurely prepare for school. On these 4 part-blog series, early educator Ashleigh Judge will address some key issues.
Blog 4 - Advocating for Your Child
By Ashleigh Judge
Whether or not your child has a formal diagnosis, it is a good idea to discuss your child’s strengths, interests and needs with your child’s teacher. Keep a strong line of communication open with your child’s teacher so that it will be easier to discuss any questions, concerns or difficulties that may arise. In general, questions about assignments and the classroom can be answered by your child’s teacher. It may be necessary to book a time to meet with your child’s teacher in-person, virtually or by phone. If you feel that problems are not resolved by speaking with your child’s teacher, it may be necessary to speak with the principal or school trustee.
If your child has a diagnosis and is preparing to enter school, it is a good idea to let your child’s principal know as soon as you register your child for school. The professionals currently working with your child can support you in advocating for your child and transitioning to the new school. If your child currently receives therapies or other professional services, you may want to ask if the school can provide these services for your child during the school day. Find out how often your child will receive these services at school and what the process is for registering your child for these services. If the school cannot provide adequate services and therapies for your child, will your child’s current therapists be able to visit your child at school? Some families choose to have their children receive therapies after school or to have their children spend half of their day in school and half of their day in therapy. Some families decide that their child would benefit the most from spending the entire school day in class with their peers. You and your child’s service team will work together to help you decide what is best for your child!
If your child has a diagnosis upon entering school or your child is continuing to struggle in the months after school begins, it may be beneficial to have an Individual Placement Review Committee (IPRC) meeting. During this meeting, many professionals may be present to discuss your child’s strengths and needs. Your child’s teacher and principal will be present. A decision will be made about whether your child’s needs will be best served in a “mainstream” class with extra support, a half day in a mainstream class and a half a day in a special education class or a full-day in a mainstream class. Your child may also receive an Individual Education Plan (IEP). This document will note your child’s strengths needs and educational (and possibly functional) goals. You make all final decisions regarding your child’s placement and IEP. All decisions are reviewed at least once every year.
You are a very important member of your child’s team and you have a right to attend all meetings with a support person (if desired). Make sure you receive notice of all meetings along with the agenda for the meeting two weeks in advance. You can have any questions or concerns you have added to the agenda. When discussing your child’s IEP, write down your goals and future vision for your child. Sometimes, meetings can be stressful. Try to stay focused on discussing the facts. Keep a binder with all of your child’s assessment results/reports and your child’s photo. Write a follow-up email thanking team members for their time and summarize the main points discussed in the meeting. If certain tasks need to be completed write include who will complete each task and the dates by which tasks will be completed in the email. If team members refuse to commit to deadlines for completing tasks note this in the email. Again, focus on facts, rather than feeling when writing emails.
Advocating for your child can feel overwhelming at times. It may be helpful to get in touch with different organizations or support groups that focus on your child’s disability diagnosis. You may want to meet with a parent of an older child with your child’s diagnosis. You may also want to join or be in contact with different advisory groups for special education at your child’s school board.
Ashleigh Judge is a Registered Early Childhood Educator in Ontario and holds an Early Childhood Resource Consultant Certificate. She has experience is providing early childhood development and parent/caregiver education programs in person and online. She also has experience in providing individual developmental support plans and strategies to young children and their families.