That’s how we all want to start the school year—with our best feet forward. This morning as I returned from walking my dog, I met a neighbor Mom and her two young children. They were returning from a trial walk to the local elementary school. The older child is starting kindergarten, and they had timed the walk to school. “Thirteen to fifteen minutes, including dilly-dallying.” What good planning, I thought. School doesn’t start here until next Tuesday, but my neighbor was establishing their morning routine now. By the look of it, it had been a pleasant outing.

For parents of children with special needs, the start of school brings some trepidation as well as excitement as you consider getting to know and coming to work with new teachers and service providers for your child. This is another place to put your best foot forward—assertively and clearly letting people know you want to work with them.

Introduce Yourself

Start by introducing yourself early. Contact your child’s teacher (or team leader) and request a meeting soon so that you can begin to get to know each other and so you can emphasize particular things you want teachers to understand about your child. Do not wait for the first scheduled review, unless it is in September. Be pleasantly assertive in asking for this meeting. Teachers are busy, and they might suggest that you wait for Back to School Night. But that group setting won’t meet your needs. So, find a time to meet and be willing to be flexible about time on your part. Based on the services your child receives, consider whom you would most like to meet.

Review Services

If your child has an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) or a 504 plan, have it with you. Though you would hope that the classroom teachers are familiar with your document, they may not be. So, it’s a good idea to go over the accommodations and services described in it, just to review. It also gives you an opportunity to ask when the specialist services will start. Often these are not ready to go at the start of the school year, but your asking lets people know that someone is looking for the service. It could be helpful. Even if you do not have a “document,” but you know that your child needs some special consideration, ask to talk to the teacher early in the year.

Introduce Your Child

This is good a time to let teachers know what to expect from your child in the classroom. For instance, your child might be very shy and reluctant to volunteer or even to speak if called upon. Perhaps it helps her to know ahead of time that her teacher will call on her in math and ask her something that she knows. This can help her to get used to classroom participation. Perhaps you have a child with ADHD who needs to be able to move around. Let the teacher know that if your child seems to be distracted or to be distracting others, it would be helpful to give her an opportunity to move around. This could be asking her to pass out materials to classmates or taking a message to the office. Many teachers are quite skilled at fitting movement breaks seamlessly into the day. Your input on concerns like these can help the classroom teacher work with your child and save your child humiliation in the classroom.

So, put your best foot forward! After a meeting like this you will know whom you can work with and whom you need to watch out for. School personnel will know that you are an involved and concerned parent who is willing to ask for their input and who knows what services her child is entitled to. This is the basis of a good start.

Author's Bio: 

Parent Coach and Licensed Psychologist, Carolyn Stone, Ed.D. (www.drcarolynstone.com) educates parents of children with learning disabilities, ADHD, Asperger Syndrome and anxiety about their children’s needs using humor and evidence-based practices. Parents learn new strategies through role play and homework. She teaches children to manage their anxiety and attention and to understand their learning styles. You can learn about Dr. Stone’s work from her blog at http://www.drcarolynstone.com/blog/.