As we start a new school year, it’s time to think about how we can set up our kiddos for a school year of success. In order for that to happen we need to all come together to take a team approach. What does this mean when your child receives services from the public schools (with or without private services)? It means we need to make a little noise so the school team knows the private team is ready to collaborate and work together this year.
So who is on the “team”? The team includes the child, parents, public and private therapists, teachers and anyone else involved in the child’s care or therapeutic process.
As part of the team you need to advocate for your child and be their voice.
Why is it so important to advocate for your child? Even if your child can speak, they don’t know their rights as a young student. It is our job as parents, teachers, and therapists to step in and make sure they receive the services they both need and deserve! Speech and language skills are extremely important when it comes to learning and academic success, so this is why it is important to make sure they receive the services they need.
So what can you do as a parent?
- Ask for an assessment when needed. If you have concerns and your child is not currently receiving any services, contact the school team (start with making the request to your child’s teacher) and ask for a comprehensive speech and language assessment.
- Make yourself known as an involved parent. Parents who make a point of reaching out to the teachers and therapists on the school team, connecting private and public providers, and letting them know you want to make this a great year, will get their children the help they need more than parents who take a back seat approach and do not speak up. It’s just the way it is!
- Connect the school speech-language pathologist (SLP) and team with your child’s private team. Sign the necessary release form so your child’s private and public team can communicate with each other. As the parent, you need to set this up. Send emails and copy the necessary team members on them so they have an easy way of communicating with each other to exchange information and/or set up a phone call to do so.
- Review IEP goals. Children can make a lot of progress over the summer months, maintain progress or they may even regress. Review your child’s IEP goals and make sure they are still appropriate and relevant. If you feel they need to be changed, contact the school team ASAP and request a periodic review to change the goals. This does not have to wait until school starts. The sooner you reach out, the sooner you will get a meeting set up.
- Request periodic reviews or informal meetings to check-in. You do not have to wait until the annual IEP meeting to meet with your child’s school team. As the parent, it is your right to request a meeting at any point. Sometimes my clients schedule meetings before the school year starts to meet the team and/or 30-60 days into the school year so the child has had a chance to adjust and so we can determine how things are going and if any changes need to be made at that point. You can ALWAYS schedule a meeting. That is your RIGHT! Please do not forget this!
- Ask Questions. If anything is unclear, please ask questions. There are no stupid questions and you are not present during your child’s school day or school provided therapies. You have the right as the parent to know what is going on with your child’s school team, school plan and how they are progressing. So ask questions!
- Set goals for home. Ask your child’s school team what they will work on in their individual sessions and what you can work on at home. If you ask for a home program they should be able to provide one for you.
These tips will help you get off to a great school year, advocating for your child! It can be hard to do, especially if it doesn’t normally come naturally to you. Follow these tips and remember your voice is the only one your child has!