As we prepare to send our children back to school, we routinely gather new school supplies and new clothes, but we don't always automatically gather important information from our child's IEP or 504 to share with their new teachers.
Many parents don't even think about needing to compile and share this information, but here's the thing very few people will tell you:
Your best bet is to assume that your child's new teachers
have no idea they're on an IEP or 504 plan.
In an ideal world all of last year's teachers would be bundling up IEP paperwork and 504 accommodations and sending them to your child's new teacher(s) as the new school year begins, but this is simply not the case except for in districts few and (way too) far between.
The bottom line is that this should never be the case, but it's nearly always the reality.
There's good news though. The fix is quick and easy: You tell them.
For most classroom teachers, it's important that they know two things right away:
Your child's qualifying eligibility category and any diagnosis/diagnoses
Your child's accommodations
Below we will share how you can present this information based upon grade levels:
When your child just has one teacher, it's fairly easy to quickly to bring them up to speed. We recommend writing up a little summary introducing your child where you explain their strengths, struggles, and interests. Behind the introduction, we would attach a copy of their accommodations, goals, and services, followed by the copy of the full IEP.
We find it helpful to acknowledge that you recognize the beginning of the year is always a bit chaotic and that you wanted to help bring the IEP or 504 to their attention. You can provide your phone number and email, and request that you meet several weeks into the year to discuss any questions they have related your child's needs once they've had a chance to get to know them a bit better.
It is also a great idea to specifically request that they keep a copy of all this information ready to go for when they have a substitute teacher so that the sub can quickly be made aware of these things, too.
Middle School, High School, Or Multiple Teachers
Now that your child has more than one teacher, things can become a bit more complicated, especially as you start to deal with different personalities that all have their own thoughts on accommodations within their classroom. (Note: Their opinions don’t matter, but that’s a whole other blog post.)
When your child has transitioned to multiple teachers, you want to mainly focus on making sure that each teacher is aware of accommodations and following them, especially when they’re related to test taking, note taking, and extended time.
The best way to do this is to provide them with a printed copy of your child's qualifying eligibility and/or diagnosis with their accommodations clearly printed. It can be very helpful to have the accommodations broken down into these categories:
The idea is that you want them to be able to quickly see and access the list of accommodations. It can also be helpful to give them a quick rundown on how your child has historically done in the subject along with your contact information. You should also let each teacher know your child’s case manager.
An additional thought: It’s helpful to have your child carry a copy of their accommodations and their full IEP or 504 in their backpack to provide to a substitute teacher when needed. (This can be a tricky spot for some students, but also a great way to learn and practice their self-advocacy skills.)
We hear from a lot of parents that this can feel overbearing or too intense, but here are two final thoughts:
Most teachers are grateful that you just eliminated the need for them to track down an IEP or 504.
If they weren't going to track down the IEP or 504, you just saved your kiddo from a rough start to a school year where accommodations weren't followed.