As I drove to Waltham today, I noticed students of all ages heading to school. There were children waiting for a school bus and later I saw many young adults walking to our neighbor, Brandeis University on South Street.
It got me thinking about kids with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including two great-nephews, who are returning to school as well. What will they face?
Hopefully, they will be welcomed by teachers and some fellow students. Hopefully, the school will be ready to implement the educational plan (IEP) for the new year. Too often we find that students graduate from their high schools unprepared for community living, safety, employment, etc.
Here are a few tips as another year starts:
-Build a good relationship with your loved one’s teacher and let the teacher know the difference that he/she can make in your child’s life.
- Build high expectations and offer your assistance in advocating for more resources.
- Share information about particular likes/dislikes so that your teacher understands your child better.
- Maintain regular communication so you know what’s happening in school and the teacher knows what’s happening at home.
- Make sure your child’s social life at school is advanced too. This goal may mean working on social skills but it also requires effort to match other children with and without disabilities so that relationships can form.
Having those connections and relationships can impact learning powerfully.
One final suggestion, connect with other parents at the school or district who have children with disabilities. This is especially useful to ensure good communication. A group also will come in handy if there are problems or delays in the educational plan which never get resolved. Several families will be more effective than one family going it alone.
A new school year is beginning with much promise – embrace it and encourage your child and your child’s teacher.
Leo Sarkissian, Executive Director