Planning for a great school year

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Reference no: EM131123564

With a few easy steps and a positive attitude, you can unload some of those burdens and you and your child can both transition
successfully into the new school year.

PLANNING FOR A Great School Year

HOW IT'S DONE
BY DEANNA PICON

very fall, children begin the school year with a backpack full bureaucratic barriers in your way. Navigating those obstacles sucof new notebooks, pencils and other school supplies. This is cessfully can be a full-time job, not the least of which includesa time of excitement and anxiety for student and parent managing bus personnel and student pick up/drop off timesalike--but what is in your backpack as a parent? Where are the change, arranging after school programs and care for your child,tools that you will need to successfully navigate the educational and ensuring you have the proper school supplies, uniforms, clothing and shoes.system?

It's a tremendous amount of work for any adult to hanFor starters, you probably have a lot of parental supFOR Gdle! So that means there's only one solution: cut yourplies:

running shoes to help you keep up with your N self some slack. You're just one person and there's endless list of tasks, aspirins for your red tape simply not enough hours headaches, a back brace to help you carry extra burin a day to do it all. You have every right to feel like dens, and a small stress ball to squeeze when everyyou have the weight of the world on your shoulders. thing gets to be too much. With everything you carry around as a parent, CH sometimes it feels like you're destined to tip over.

2. GET INVOLVED
One of the smartest and most effective things you can you can unload some of those burdens and you and your do for your child's education is to simply be part of it.


child can both transition successfully into the new school year. Get to know your child's teacher and paraprofessionals. They
can help you understand how your child's disability affects him/her in the classroom, and offer advice on appropriate academic activi1. KNOW IT'S OKAY TO FEEL OVERWHELMED ties and lesson plans.


Just about every parent of a special needs child ends up feeling stressed-out or frustrated with the special education system at
Teachers and school staff are also an invaluable resource for persome point.

sonal knowledge -- what your child likes to eat or drink at school, Whether you're struggling to find the right school or constantly how s/he interacts with peers as well as how their social skills are battling to ensure your child is getting appropriate therapy and developing, etc.


services, the challenges never seem to stop, regardless of your Remember, you don't have to wait for an official IEP meeting or
child's age.

CHARTING THE RIGHT COURSE: Every child has the potential to be a unique, wonderful person. But that doesn't happen without the
ongoing support and encouragement of parental figures. child, without him/her knowing you're there.


If possible, get involved with some of the school's activities. Network with other parents at workshops and events, and learn what they're working on. Share tips and ideas, and be supportive of each other. It'll be great to make some new friends and you may
even find some potential "play dates" for your child. It's a win/win for everyone.

3. LEARN FROM YOUR THERAPY TEAM
All of your child's therapists can be equally helpful and valuable to you, regardless of whether they specialize in speech, physical, occupational or behavioral therapy. Each one has something valuable to teach you and can bring a fresh, new perspective. Take advantage of their expertise and don't be afraid to ask questions. The more you understand what each therapist is doing and how it helps your child, the more you'll be able to contribute to their progress. Ask them to develop some easy and practical activities that you can do at home that will reinforce their work.

4. FORM A WINNING PARTNERSHIP
Your child's educators and therapists will be more helpful and involved with you when you tell and show them that you want to

work together, as a group. Be open, honest and approachable and they will be the same. Discuss best practices for communicating and building a successful team. It's wise to develop these partnerships early in the school year, while your child and the teaching staff are settling in and getting to know each other.


It's extremely helpful if you provide a "cheat sheet" - a short list of communication skills, likes and dislikes, behavior triggers and all
the other things about your child that only a parent would know. It can be as simple as a piece of paper or index card. It may not seem like a lot of information to you, but this insight into your child and his/her behavior is priceless for everyone. And, by helping the teachers do their jobs, you've opened the door to forming a positive relationship.


Showing your appreciation for all their hard work is always nice. It doesn't have to be expensive. Send a box of cookies as a snack
for the class. Say "thank you" now and again. It really is the thought that counts.

5. SET REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
The people working with your child are dedicated professionals, but they're not miracle workers. For example, if your child is nonverbal, it's unrealistic to think s/he is going to start speaking or saying words in just a few weeks of working with a speech therapist. But developing realistic goals and strategies which may increase your child's learning is essential. By working closely together, you and your teaching staff will give


your child a chance to be the best person s/he can be. Even if progress is slow, be sure to celebrate the small achievements along the way and the efforts your child is making towards success.

6. USE THE "LITTLE NOTEBOOK"


METHOD
It's easy to say that you should keep the lines of communication open between you and your child's teaching team. But how do
you do that when everyone involved is so busy?

The simple answer is also the best - an  ordinary, dollar-store notebook. This little collection of paper can be a highly effective communication tool if you and your child's educators agree to spend five minutes a day (or less!) to use it. Every day, your child's teacher should write a brief note summarizing your child's activities. It may not be more than three to five sentences. Once the teacher has done his/her part, it becomes your turn. You can comment on the day's activities or address any special concerns you may have.

There doesn't have to be an agenda. Most teachers just appreciate your interest and input. For those who prefer not to write in a
notebook, there are other options like communicating via text messages or e-mail. Remember, there's always the phone. Most teachers don't mind speaking with parents during their break. It doesn't need to be more complex than this to establish and maintain ongoing communication. Just a few minutes of your time can reap huge benefits throughout the school year.

7. KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
Your child is entitled to an appropriate education just like any other child in America.

If, for any reason, you're not satisfied with the IEP (Individualized Education Program) or other academic goals set for your child or you feel that your child's needs are not being met, you are justified in asking questions and trying to change the situation.
For example, there may be times when you feel that your child's teacher or therapists may not be the best "fit" for him/her. Or there may be students in your son or daughter's class who may be harmful to or a bad influence.


In situations like these, you should feel comfortable speaking to the school principal or other administrative personnel to
resolve these issues. Don't wait until there is a problem. Follow your instincts. It is much easier to make changes earlier in the school year.

PATIENCE AND WISDOM:Even if progress is slow, be sure to celebrate the small achievements along the way and the efforts your child is making towards success. than mid-term. Knowing your rights is not a matter of "taking on" the education system as an enemy. It's simply another way to be the best possible advocate for your family.

8. A LITTLE FUN GOES A LONG WAY
You don't have to spend every waking moment, analyzing your child's behavior or trying to modify it. They get enough of that in school. Just like you, your child needs a little downtime now and again. So, take a break from all the school work and therapy and have some enjoyment.


Play a game with each other. Get some snacks and watch a DVD or favorite television show. Bake some cookies. Not every activity has to have a purpose or accomplish a goal. You can also take your child with you into the community and have a good time. Take a day trip to the zoo, museum or aquarium, or spend a few hours at the movies or neighborhood park. Fun is an important part of every child's
life.

9. BE THE HEAD CHEERLEADER

Every child has the potential to be a unique, wonderful person. But that doesn't happen without the ongoing support and encouragement of parental figures. To get the most out of life, children need a team of cheerleaders to urge them to do their best, and to make them feel proud of their achievements, or help them get over
their mistakes or failures.

Instead of concentrating on what may or may not be possible in the future, you will help yourself and your child more by celebrating every little achievement you do have. Focus on "the here and now" and give your child plenty of TLC (tender loving
care).

10. GIVE YOURSELF THE CREDITYOU DESERVE

While everyone focuses on your child's grade and progress this year, it's only fitting that someone acknowledges the great work
you're doing on behalf of your child. You consistently demonstrate remarkable patience and resilience despite ongoing high pressure situations. You take the lead in student support and make valuable contributions to the education process. By showing willingness, dedication and true love for your son or daughter, you are helping him/her reach their full potential.

Reference no: EM131123564

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