Don’t wait until your child’s eligibility for special education has been determined before taking steps to learn about the special education process, your child’s disability and needs, and how to help your child learn!  Here are five things you can do while you wait!

#1. Continue to stay on top of your child’s progress at school

  • Ask your child to show you his or her school work, and note the grades and comments by the teacher(s).
  • Check report cards carefully.
  • Ask your child’s teacher(s) for other kinds of information about your child’s performance and what the teacher is doing to help your child.
  • What interventions have they already tried? What were the results of those interventions? Share your ideas about what other approaches might work.
  • Attend regular parent-teacher conferences and bring any questions or concerns, and ask for a special meeting if necessary.
  • Regular phone calls and notes are also a good way to increase the information shared between you and your child’s teacher(s). Plan with your child’s teacher(s) how you can work together to help your child be more successful.
  • Talk with your child about school and his/her concerns.
  • Start saving and organizing classwork performance samples that provide concrete examples of your child’s strengths and needs.

#2. Work with your child at home

Help your child use positive self-talk. For example, if s/he has anxiety over taking a science test, have them imagine their doing well.  Have him/her identify a goal and tell him/herself that they can accomplish it. For example, “In an hour, I will have learned twenty words to spell, and tomorrow I will do well on the test.”

Make sure your child does their homework including studying.  Before commencing an assignment, see to it that your child goes over the directions. Make certain that s/he knows what is expected and exactly what must occur to complete the assignment.

After your child has completed studying, have them review and ask themselves key questions. If your child can’t do this, you review the material and ask them questions.

Categorizing and grouping will help your child remember a larger amount of information. Your child may benefit from keeping a study notebook where they keep notes from class and readings, previous assignments, and a calendar to keep track of due dates.   Help them make charts or lists of main ideas, facts, dates, key vocabulary words, names and important concepts. They can use this to complete homework and or review for tests.

#3. Talk with your child’s doctor

Share your concerns about your child’s development, health, mental health, etc. with your child’s doctor.

Ask them if they have done a periodic screening to identify developmental delays, mental health challenges, etc. Did they use a validated screening tool? What were the results? Have they noticed anything about your child’s development, language, behavior, etc. that makes them concerned? If they share your concerns, or have additional concerns, request a referral to an appropriate medical specialist.

Periodic screenings of your child to identify developmental, behavioral, and other concerns are required to be covered by health insurers under the Affordable Care Act with no co-pay by you, and are also included under Medicaid’s Early Periodic, Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) provisions.

#4. Find out more about your child’s suspected disability

If your child has a disability, it is important that you find out all you can about that disability as well as the types of services and supports that might help your child.

Partners Resource Network has information about all of the disabilities that are eligible for services under IDEA:

#5. Learn your rights and get support; reach out to Partners Resource Network!

If you have concerns about how your child is doing in school, you are naturally worried. It is important that you share your concerns with people in your life who can help you, like your spouse/significant other, extended family members, clergy, etc.

Now is also a good time to find out about your rights as a parent in the special education process. Don’t wait until the eligibility or IEP meeting to learn about the special education process, timelines, your rights and responsibilities, how you can be effectively involved, and what to do if you and your child’s school district disagree about eligibility or the IEP. Call Partners Resource Network’s Parent Training and Information Centers (PTI) at 800-866-4726 and talk to a trained parent who has direct experience with the special education process.

Remember: you can take important steps today to prepare you for the special education process ahead!

This factsheet is from SPAN Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (New Jersey PTI).