Tips for Partnering With School for Your Child With Special Needs

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University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children'sExperts in Children's Health
father working with special needs child with homework

Maybe your child has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism. Or maybe your child has a learning or physical disability. These are real challenges. But you know your child is full of potential. And you want to see your child learn, grow and reach that potential in the classroom.

That’s why it is so important to team up with the school. You can help your child get the supports and services needed for success. Richard Grossberg, MD, Director, UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Center for Comprehensive Care, has these tips for how parents and caregivers can better partner with teachers, principals and special education specialists.

Team Up with Teachers

Make plans to sit down with your child’s teacher to discuss concerns. “Ask the teacher to describe any learning or behavior problems your child is having at school, and be open about issues you have noticed as well,” Dr. Grossberg says. “Then talk about ways to address these challenges along with how you will keep in touch about progress and setbacks.”

In some cases, your child may qualify for special education services. But a diagnosis from a health care provider isn’t enough. Eligibility for these services is based on an educational evaluation. “You can request this kind of evaluation if you think your child needs it,” Dr. Grossberg says. “Send the school a written request and keep a copy for your records.”

Prepare for IEP Meetings

If your child receives special education services, the school will create an Individualized Education Program (IEP). This is a written plan that sets out goals for your child. It also describes what your child needs to meet these goals. A yearly meeting is held to create your child’s IEP. And parents are invited.

“It’s important to arrive prepared,” Dr. Grossberg says. “Before the meeting, ask yourself: What are my child’s strong and weak areas? What do I think would help my child have a good school year? Jot down some notes. Then bring them to the meeting so you are ready to share.”

Get into a Positive Routine

Finally, Dr. Grossberg emphasizes that the right routine can set the stage for a successful day at school. Some kids do better when daily tasks are broken down into smaller steps. Others find it easier to follow a schedule that uses pictures as cues.

“Speak up to let teachers know what has worked well for your child in the past,” Dr. Grossberg says.

Related Links

Children with significant learning or motor-related disabilities are valued members of families and participate in activities through school and the community, but they also face a host of health problems throughout their lives. Often, parents struggle with managing their child’s care and seeing the many specialists required to meet their child’s complex needs. The Center for Comprehensive Care at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, is designed to help children and young adults with severe disabilities navigate care. Learn more.

 

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