Congratulations caregivers!!! We made it through another summer break. We can finally sit back and relax as soon as school starts in a few weeks. SIKE!!!! The marathon is starting, but don’t worry, you’ve been training for this moment. I’m confident you all will ask the right questions, document everything, and have your voices heard! As a refresher, I’d like to go into the steps of heading back to school for our special littles. Maybe this is your first time sending them off, maybe this isn’t your first rodeo, or maybe you are being relocated and the fear of starting over is overwhelming (me). Whatever your path may be, my goal is to have you feeling confident before your child enters their perspective school.
Typically, after your child has completed an Early Childhood Intervention or ECI, by the age of 3, they will be relocated (by an ECI social worker), to your designated school districts PPCD program or Preschool Program for children with Disabilities. There are several programs around the district, your child may not attend his or her “zoned school” while apart of the PPCD program. No need to worry though, under IDEA or Individuals with Disabilities Education Act our special littles are allowed transportation services to and from their school. However, if you prefer to drop off and pick up your child, that works too! Know your rights by reading up on all of IDEA’s legislation to ensure success for your child. Testing will need to be done to determine what program suits your child, this unfortunately, can take a bit of time depending on staffing and the tentative school calendar. These tests include but are not limited to; an initial screening of our son; being asked to complete several tasks while I was in the room, a hearing/vision screening done by the school nurse, another evaluation for my son, while I was being interviewed (separately), an ADOS or Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule test, and last but certainly not least, a screening of our son in a general Ed. pre-school setting. If this all starts to run together, it’s okay, you WILL receive a summarization of all testing done, typically no later than a month after completion. No Summarization? Request one, and stay on top of it. Remember to keep in mind that even though you only see your child, know that there are several other special souls being evaluated and these things take time. If you feel its been taking longer than anticipated, call or e-mail the school, and document everything.
We started PPCD in mid-February 2017. Giving us roughly 3 months of actual “school time” (part-time), before summer break. Not ideal, but I wanted my son to have some type of interaction with other children and teachers as soon as possible. Before our son’s “first day of school,” administrators, my husband, and myself had our very first ARD meeting, or Admission Review and Dismissal process. To discuss our son’s IEP or Individualized Education Program. In short, we discussed information found through previous testing, and determined a plan for success moving forward. Being that this would be the first time our son actually attended school there was no concrete evidence of his behavior or intellectual skills in a school type setting prior, to have an actual baseline. I knew we eventually would have to revisit these individualized education plans once our son gained momentum in the educational world, and teachers could then comment on his progress or lack there of. This was literally ground zero. An ARD meeting is intimidating, so I highly recommend writing down everything you want to say, and address in regards to your child beforehand. I could talk forever about ARD meetings and what to expect. In fact, I promise to follow up this article with one specifically for an ARD meeting.
Once your child starts school, stay on top of things your teachers and administrators said would happen. Request documentation of student summaries when testing, and don’t forget to check in with your teachers. Not only to see how your child is doing in their classroom, but how they are doing. Ask what you can do at home to help out if your child is lacking in a particular area. Ask if there is something you can bring or donate to the class to make life more easier for your teacher. We are all in this together. Teachers should not be left to do “all” the work when it comes to molding your child for the world. As corny as the following statement is, it truly, “takes a village.” I know I threw a lot out today, as always if there is anyone looking for some clarity, you know where to find me. I promise it gets easier and becomes second nature once you get your wheels turning. Let’s chat soon! ❤
***Testing was tailored to what we needed to go through in our particular scenario. Please follow up with your state and school information to see what works best for you!!***