When you have a child with an IEP you have typically been in communication with your team before October, but that does not mean the fall conference can’t be tough to navigate. With limited time and a lot to cover, here are my 5 questions you should ask!
- What is your impression of my child in the classroom? This lets you know how much your child’s teacher is interacting with your child, and give you insight into their relationship. The general education teacher is a critical part of your child’s success. I find that when parents feel like the teacher “gets” their child, it eases anxiety and builds the trust necessary to have a successful school year.
- What is working well? Often you will dive into work samples, the first round of tests to review, and a little summary of the first quarter of school. Asking about what is working, gives everyone a chance to note the reinforcements and strategies that have led to success so far. It’s helpful to ask this question when things are positive so that you can use them to tweak plans when troubles arise.
- Who does my child interact with? Academics are important, but social skills are crucial to a successful year. Who is your child working with on a group task, can they initiate a conversation on their own? Do they sit alone at lunch, or have a group to play with at recess? For older students, are they comfortable with group work or asking someone to be their partner? Can they handle rotating lab partners?
- What do you see as my child’s strength? It’s so important to ask this, often you will see a teacher light up as they share something wonderful about your child. We use strengths to develop the IEP, and this teacher is an active member of your child’s team now, and often they are thinking about how this strength from a classroom perspective. For many children, using a strength to front-load non-preferred activities can be a game-changer.
- What does a typical day look like in your room? The twenty minutes usually goes so fast, but it’s important to find out how your child’s day flows. Related services, push in or pull out for small groups, and sensory breaks are necessary but also can create challenges. How is your student handling those transitions? Is there an area of the day that seems to be more challenging than others?
If you have a child with special needs, I strongly urge you to ask for your child’s intervention specialist to attend the conference with your child’s classroom teacher. It’s often the perfect time to assess how your child is doing at this point and what they would like to see improve for the next quarter. For any questions that don’t get answered, don’t be afraid to follow up with your teachers and intervention specialist. I would also suggest an email to confirm what you heard at the conference to keep the communication open, especially if the conference did not go well. Make sure to stick to the basics, if the year has not been successful use the IEP as a map to get you back on track. Good luck, and as always I am here to answer any questions you have about your IEP process.