I’ve been debating on whether to post this now or later in the school year, but I figured there’s no such thing as asking too many questions. Parents and students must advocate for themselves and the services and support they need. While many states have mandated providing free special education services, these services may be limited by budget constraints, lack of personnel, and lack of understanding of the student’s needs. So here is a list of 10 questions you can ask your child’s school district or teacher regarding the management of sensory processing disorder or any special needs.
1. How do I find out about the special education services offered by “XYZ” School District?
Sometimes it’s difficult to even know where to begin. There are several things you can do to find out this information.
- Call a local school in your neighborhood
- Use your favorite search engine (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc) to search for “special education” and the school district name
- Ask other parents, your child’s current teacher, pediatrician or any other health care provider that your child may see
2. What is the admissions process or what documentation is needed to verify that my child should receive special education services?
New York City Department of Education has the largest school district in the US serving over 1 million students. Over 140,000 of those students are receiving special education services. Every school district has a process for registering students for these services.
Your child may need a referral. For some school districts, this is as simple as writing a letter to the principal or teacher. In general, the school district will acknowledge that they’ve received the referral and provide a list of providers that can do an evaluation. The list of places that can do an evaluation may be limited and may have an extended wait list. Try to schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
3. How is an individualized education plan (IEP) designed for my child, and how do you monitor if it’s working?
Once your child begins receiving special education services, parents have to keep working. Ask teachers for periodic feedback and conferences. Many schools now have parent portals that allow for more frequent parent-teacher interactions. You can be alerted about a situation prior to the end of the school day and already have an appropriate response for your child when they arrive home. If you feel that something in the IEP is not working, let the school know. Be persistent but don’t be rude.
4. Does the school have regular access to Speech, OT, PT, a guidance counselor and a psychologist?
Being able to receive speech, occupational, or physical therapy during the school day can free up time instead of having to take children to appointments after school. It could also free up money from paying insurance deductibles and co-pays. If you child will be able to access these services, ask questions. What is the plan? What are the goals? What “homework” will the child have? How is the child progressing.
5. What strategies does the school use to manage challenging behavior?
We know that our kids are not angels 100% of the time. They need boundaries, rules and structure. Discuss with the teacher techniques that are used at home to manage behavior. If they are not against school policies, they may be able to use those technique to keep things consistent for your child. Or maybe the school found a better technique that you can use at home. Keeping in contact with the school is key!
6. Are there any extracurricular activities that are open to special needs students?
All work and no play made Johnny bored! Sports, interest clubs, career clubs, music, science, art, the list goes on. Children involved in extracurricular activities can have improved social skills, gain confidence, and learn new things. See where your child can be involved and if needed offer to help lead up a club or activity.
7. What is the school’s policy on bullying?
School districts can help prevent bullying by establishing and enforcing school rules and policies that describe how students are expected to treat each other. Consequences for violations of the rules should be defined as well. A code of conduct applies to all students and sets standards for behaviors. Some state laws specify what has to be included in a school’s code of conduct. School staff should be trained on enforcing the rules. Staff and parents should have the tools to respond to and report bullying consistently and appropriately. Check out stopbullying.gov for more info.
8. If my child needs a paraprofessional, what training will s/he receive? Will my child get the same para every day? Will the para be with my child at lunchtime and recess?
There are pros and cons to having a para with your child. Some of the pros include having someone to prompt your child to keep talking, interacting, and thinking about what is happening around them, someone to repeat or re-explain an assignment, someone to monitor the environment to make sure your child is not overwhelmed or anxious, and an extra person to provide feedback about your child. I won’t discuss the cons of having a para in this post, but make sure the para is promoting your child’s learning and independence.
9. What classroom settings and configurations are offered?
Your child’s placement is not set in stone. You can always move your child if a placement becomes too hard or too easy.
- Inclusion Class: In an inclusion class,your child will be in a regular education class with his age peers. In this setting there will be a regular teacher and possibly a special education teacher whose job it is to adjust the curriculum to your child’s abilities. This setting has the benefit of keeping children in the mainstream classroom but may not be able to provide the intensive help some students need.
- Resource Room: In a resource room a special education teacher works with a small group of students using techniques that may work more effectively with special needs students. In general, the students remain in the mainstream classroom and go to the resource room to receive intensive help needed for a particular subject.
- Self-Contained Class: Placement in a self-contained classroom means that your child will be removed from the general school population for all academic subjects to work in a small controlled setting with a special-education teacher. K worked in this kind of setting for several years. Students in a self-contained class may be at all different academic levels and use different textbooks and curriculum. Self-contained classes offer structure, routine, and appropriate expectations, but some students may require a higher level of specialization.
10. What type of assistive and adaptive technology is available?
Assistive technology is available to help students with many types of disabilities — from cognitive problems to physical impairment. The use of technology to enhance learning is great approach for many children. Students with often experience greater success when they are allowed to use their abilities (strengths) to work around their disabilities (challenges). Assistive technology tools can help children who struggle with listening, math, organization and memory, reading, and writing.
So there you have it! 10 questions you can ask your school district or teacher about special education and sensory processing disorder. Go forth and help your children be the best they can be.