Navigating the back-to-school season can be a significant challenge, especially if your loved one is living with disabilities. As a mother of a profoundly disabled daughter, Elizabeth, Host Annette Hines has learned that preparation is everything. From creating checklists to setting achievable goals, we explore how to keep things in order, ensuring a smooth transition. This episode shares the story of Annette’s journey and how it led her to become an advocate for the disability community.
The second part of our discussion is equally important – understanding the procedures, expectations, and the art of communication when it comes to dealing with care providers. We discuss the importance of asking questions, comprehending policies, and setting up effective communication channels. We also shed light on the significance of touring the school or program setting for identifying potential issues. It’s not just about getting ready for a new school year, it’s about building an environment that fosters understanding, awareness, and compassion. Whether you’re a parent, caregiver, or just interested in the trials and triumphs of the disability community, this episode promises to enlighten and empower you to be an advocate for your disabled person.
Back-to-School Checklist for Families with Disabilities
Annette Hines created the following list from her perspective a parent and a professional who advises families every day about educational advocacy and disability support plan issues. These tips will really help start off the year with your best foot forward!
Review Your Child’s Individualized Education Plan
- Has your student made sufficient progress on their goals?
- What have you discovered while observing your student during the learning process or what have previous educators shared with you? Does your student do well with one-to-one learning or need more interventions?
- What needs to be changed or updated if there will be a new classroom or school environment?
- Does your child have an Individualized Healthcare Plan (an IHP) that needs to be updated? If not, should your student have an IHP now? An Individualized Healthcare Plan is required by law when a child has a medical condition that impacts his or her ability to access education during the school year/day such as a child who needs to take insulin or other medication while they are at school, a child with life threatening allergies, or a child with a g-tube and seizures like my daughter, Elizabeth.
Did You Collect Any New Information Over the Summer?
- Was your child ill or has anything changed about their condition or your family situation?
- Did you receive any new diagnoses?
- Does your child have any new healthcare difficulties to discuss with the school?
- Did you receive any new reports or evaluations that you need to share with the school?
Does Your Child Require One-to-One Staffing Such as a Nurse or an Aide?
If this is a new request for the IEP, then a TEAM meeting will need to be called to discuss the request. Even if you’ve always had this one-to-one staffing for your child, new protocols will need to be in place prior to the return to school.
- Where will you find the staffing now?
- Who employs them, you or the school district?
Other Considerations Before Returning Your Child to School
- If your child has mobility issues, will the elevators be available now and are the classrooms spaced well for him or her?
- Are there medicine or special food that need to be refrigerated and will your student be allowed to use the refrigerator?
- What are the new emergency procedures for your child in case of fire or other emergency crises?
Do You Need to Call a TEAM Meeting to Discuss These Issues in a More Formal Manner?
Even though everyone is very busy and inundated—do not be intimidated! Advocate for your child!
Is Your Child Transitioning Care or Services?
For parents whose children are in their transition years, transition planning is a bridge between security and structure offered by the school system to adult services and supports. Our premier course, the Special Needs Advocacy and Planning Masterclass offers guidance through an online course that applies to students nationwide.
- If you are not comfortable with how things are set up for your child in school, you have options. Your child is entitled to a free and appropriate education under IDEA. That includes homeschooling and distance learning.
- Be thoughtful about the long-term value of developing relationships with physicians, providers, schools, caseworkers, and others. Nurture these relationships.
- It is always better if plans are a team decision rather than a reluctant response to demand. Being patient, thoughtful, and encouraging in those relationships (with physicians, providers, schools, and caseworkers) is a challenge, but it is critically important.
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