Back-to-School, Parent Conferences, and IEP Meetings. Oh My!

It’s October and the school year has transitioned into meeting Season.  You know the time of year that you start getting emails and letters in your child’s folders asking you when will you be available for meetings or letting you know when you’re supposed to show up.

As the emails start to roll in, I'm excited because I want to know how my sons are  progressing. I’m jumping in with 2 feet since I love to check in with my sons Individual Education Plan (IEP) team  and check in with them.

Then I get the Back-to-School Night reminders and I’m thinking “ I hate Back to School Night.” I know this is a surprise since I’m 110% about my kids. However, as a single mom with 2 kids who go to school in Virginia and Maryland while we live in DC means that I have a crazy commute during rush hour. In addition to having to pick one of the boys up first , get back into DC to pick up my other son, and then return to the school.  Are you feeling the WOW factor yet? If not, let me add the Back to School Nights are on a Wednesday and Thursday.

So I pose the question to myself “What’s important about Back-to-School Night when I meet with my sons teachers this month for Parent /Teacher Conferences? Why do they have so many meetings?”

To justify why I’m not going to Back-to-School Night I reviewed what’s the purpose of each meeting and the significance to advocating for my child in school. Plus my 12 yr. old told me I had to go while laughing as I was telling him about the traffic struggle. If you have children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (high functioning)  then you know … they are all about rules and order. I’m going to need a solid reason for not attending.

Let’s dig in lightly and briefly on the purpose of each meeting. Honestly , busy parents need quick information.

  • Back-to-School Night

    This is the time for teachers and the support team to introduce themselves and the curriculum that they are using to teach your child. You will also learn how to support your child at home.

Benefit: You will learn what education programs the school is using for your child , which you can use to advocate for your child.

Example: The  school is using Fundations to teach reading, however your child is not making process and may benefit from another program. You will be able to advocate better by being able to reference the program they are using and why another one would be better for your child.

  • Parent/Teacher Conferences

The meetings we all love since we can look over our child's accomplishments so far in class and discuss how our child is progressing. 

Benefit: Great opportunity to talk about what works for your child and create a plan to work with the teachers as a team to help your child make progress.

Example: The teachers mentioned that my son tends to shut down in math class. I explained to them that he tends to withdraw when he feels like he’s not confident in certain skills. If they had a job that would allow him to be an assistant would help him participate more.

  • Individual Education Plan (IEP) Meetings

These meetings typically occur twice a year when your child’s Individual Education Plan needs to be updated. However, they can be held at any time when an IEP team member has any concerns or you have them yourself.

Benefit: Opportunity to discuss your child’s progress and the current goals. Another chance for you to show how your child’s diagnosis lives in your child. 

Example: My son has a goal that states he will be able to identify 15 out of 20 site words by the end of the year. It’s mid-year and his progress report states they have just introduced this goal. I would request to have a meeting with the team to discuss my concerns.

So this is the skinny and I’m thinking that I’m going to reach out to the teachers and see if I can get the information without going to the meeting in person. I’ll keep you posted. My mother always says “ You have nothing to lose and everything to gain when you ask a questions”.