5 Steps to a Successful School Year for Your Special Needs Child


If your child with special needs has an IEP (Individualized Education Program) then you are
already familiar with how much energy goes into caring for your child medically and educationally. Summer is an ideal time to get organized, tune up your advocacy skills, and prepare for the
upcoming school year! Here are five steps to help ensure a successful school year for your student:

Step #1 Review

Review the IEP: Do you have questions or concerns related to the appropriateness of your child’s current IEP? Are goals listed still relevant? Are modifications and accommodations listed still needed? Does your child require additional services or accommodations? Has your child made progress? Demonstrated regression? Has anything changed with your child’s medical diagnoses, treatment plan, or therapies?

Review your parental and student’s rights: eced/iepguide/index.html.

Step #2 Organize

Compile and organize records: Gather your child’s IEP progress reports, classroom work samples, assessments, and correspondence with teachers and staff. Request records from the school if necessary. Compile Independent Educational Evaluations (IEE) to include documents from other professionals, such as: evaluation reports, diagnostic findings, and plan-of-care notes from doctors, therapists, tutors, and other private providers. Consider providing the independent evaluator’s educational recommendations to the school.

Create a system: Organize all documents in a three-ring binder with tabs and keep a separate binder for each academic year.

Step #3 Plan

Check the calendar: Do you have an upcoming meeting or need to request a meeting?
Don’t go it alone: plan to bring someone with you to the meeting such as a family member, friend, therapist, or a Special Education Advocate.

Make requests: Do you need to request an evaluation, or a reevaluation be conducted?

Meet and greet: Attend the school orientation and open house so you and your student can meet their teacher.

Begin at the end: Consider how you would like your child to progress this year. Plan with these goals in mind.

Step #4 Communicate

Be specific: Ask W” questions (who, what, when, where, and why) of school staff to get detailed answers.

Be positive: Send your child’s teacher an introductory email with your contact information; after meetings write a thank you note or email.

Be proactive: Make sure ALL your child’s teachers have a copy of the IEP. To avoid the possibility that they did not receive a copy, ask, or go ahead and provide them with one. It is important that all staff working with your child are aware of what supports they require.

Step #5 Monitor

Monitor your child’s progress: Study recent progress reports, evaluations, and assessment results and seek clarification if you have questions. Revisit your notes from recent meetings and follow up on any action items. Request an IEP progress meeting when needed.

Take an active role: IDEA describes the parent’s role as, “The parents of a child with a disability are expected to be equal participants along with school personnel, in developing, reviewing, and revising the IEP for their child. This is an active role…” YOU are a key member of your child’s team. Remember, YOU know your child best; you are an expert, too!

About the Author


Special Education Consultant & Advocate, Amy Scott Lorton, of My IEP Advocate, has been helping parents navigate the complicated special education process since 2002. Amy holds a Certificate in Special Education Advocacy from William and Mary Law School and earned multiple teaching certificates. Amy has over two decades of experience teaching students with disabilities as well as personal experience raising a child with a disability. Amy is an active member of Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) and National Association of Professional Special Education Advocates (NASEA). Amy also partners with local disability support agencies and non-profit organizations to offer quality advocacy and informational training and workshop opportunities to parents and professionals. Request a consultation: Contact Us: or visit:

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