It’s not only our children starting a new adventure as the school year begins; parents play an active role in this transition, too. We pour our hearts and souls into raising our little ones and then must prepare ourselves to hand them off to the next biggest influences in their lives: teachers.
How can we best support our children during this major life transition? It can be difficult with Covid to find the opportunities but seek out times to have interactions with peers and foster relationships. Get them out in the community! Find places you feel are safe for your child (e.g. playgrounds, aquarium, restaurants). Yes, these experiences may be triggers for behavior and feel aversive at first, but they will never learn those important social skills unless exposed and the rest of the community will never raise awareness unless we try.
Another method of support comes from all caregivers involved: parents, families, early learning intervention specialists, and anyone actively involved in the care of our babies. Therapy is only effective if there is consistency between caregivers and settings as it takes time and work for children to learn and practice each skill.
School is another community environment where children should feel safe to continue honing their skills while learning how to access resources and opportunities. While it is important to have confidence in the decisions of teachers and school administration, it is also imperative to take an active role on behalf of your child: the role of advocate.
Our children don’t understand what ASD, IEP, 504, ARD or any other acronyms involved mean for them. We hardly understand the importance until thrown into a meeting with several school staff and professionals, all telling us what they think would be best for our children. It can be overwhelming!
Like with any self-help or life advice method, here are 3 important keys to success:
1. Ask questions ahead of time to the teacher and school administration.
What experience do your teachers have working with neurodiverse children? Can outside therapy shadow in-school?
Do you offer an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and 504 for children who qualify?
What type of least restrictive environment is the school administration and teacher recommending (general education classroom with support, partial mainstream/inclusion classroom, special education classroom)?
What levels of visual and behavioral support are being provided for my learner? Are resources available to make sure their Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) is followed?
2. Use all of your resources.
If you are unsure of anything, ask. Take time to research online, reach out to other parents, or even ask your child’s Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) to sit in on any meetings. Our BKA Clinical Director, Danielle Skala, is passionate about making sure parents are supported during this process and makes herself available. All of our BCBAs and therapists are here for you and your learner.
Lewisville Independent School District has put out a fantastic resource that explains the process, meetings, and terminology that you can find here.
3. And lastly, If you don’t agree, do not sign.
You know your child better than anyone else and you have the right to disagree with a school. During the ARD (IEP) meeting, they will make recommendations. However, you, as a parent, have the right to make suggestions that meet your learner’s needs; just don’t forget to research. Examples can include:
Schools are legally required to recommend that your child attend a full school-day schedule, but you would prefer they be pulled out for ABA therapy.
Or maybe they are recommending a certain number of self-contained special education minutes versus general education inclusion minutes.
Maybe the school hasn’t considered speech or occupational therapy to be included in your child’s education and you would like them to conduct an evaluation.
Bring your parental perspective to the table and if you don’t agree, do not sign. It is alright to let those involved at the ARD meeting that you would like to reconvene at a later time to further discuss your child’s future in the educational system.
This may sound like a lot, and it is! But you are laying the foundation for your child’s success. Advocate for your child and for yourself and we at One of the Kids will continue to advocate for you.