Adjusting to a new school year with new teachers, classmates and schedules is always difficult, but for students with learning disabilities these changes can be extra stressful.
As the hustle and bustle of the new year beginning dies down, this is the time to build an effective education support team that will make starting the new term easier and enhance your student’s opportunity for a successful year.
1. Fill in the gaps for teachers with a brief information package
Whether your student is staying in the same school and moving up a grade,or is making the transition to middle or high school or is moving to a new school, you are your student’s most important advocate and source of information and insights about them.
For new teachers and school personnel who may not be familiar with your LD student it is important that you, as the parent, take the time to prepare a written information package.
This information package should include:
(a) A Brief general description about your student’s specific learning disability or learning disorder
As not every teacher is familiar with all learning disabilities you should definitely discuss the specifics of your student’s disability or disabilities so that everyone is on the same page.
(b) A short description of your students’s unique academic and/or social strengths and weaknesses.
For example, if your student is particularly sensitive to noise, or frequently has difficulty handing in assignments or is easily embarrassed when called upon in class- teachers should be made aware of these factors ASAP.
(c) Anything that will illustrate your student’s current achievement levels.
A selection of recent educational assessments, report cards, notes from past teachers, even tests and homework assignments are all good things to include,
D) Previous accommodations that were made for your student
Indicate the learning strategies that worked well last year and those that didn’t work quite as well.
Recognizing and acknowledging the successful strategies and accommodations that were made for your student last year, will create a more positive atmosphere for cooperation this year.
2. Get Your Student On Board
Your student is a vital member of their own educational team.
As a parent, it is important to sit down with your student to look carefully at the goals that were set for them last year and evaluate how successfully each goal was met and what areas are still trouble spots.
You and your student can then calmly discuss and outline the realistic goals that you both agree need to be focused on this year.
Your student’s agreement with specific goals is likely to increase the effort they will put into to reach those goals. The experience of participating in goal setting is also important to your student’s development.
Your student can also often offer a valuable perspective in identifying and explaining why certain strategies and accommodations worked for them last year and why others were not as successful.
3. Open the Lines of Communication with Teachers
When a teacher is faced with a class full of new students, it is easy for your student to get lost in the crowd.
Scheduling a brief meeting (remember they’re often overworked, too!) with each of your student’s teachers will help the teacher gain a better understanding of your student and help them make a personal connection.
During a face to face meeting or phone conversation with teachers, you and your student can share and discuss both the information package you have prepared and/ or your student’s IEP or 504 Plan. This is the perfect opportunity for both you and your student to explain what helps your student learn best, share some of the challenges your student faces and answer any questions the teacher has.
It is also a great time to enlist each teacher’s support and reassure the teacher of your support as well. Clearly assuring the teacher that they can count on your cooperation is crucial to building a positive relationship with the teacher.
Finally different teachers have different attitudes and approaches to teaching. A meeting will help you and your student gain a better understanding of each teacher’s teaching style, expectations and attitude.