STREAMLINING THE SCHOOL ENTRY PROCESS WITHIN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION LANDSCAPE
The changing life-style of the military family may seem adventurous to their civilian counterparts, but those who choose this career and life path face a degree of challenge to sustain synchronization of their dual roles of protecting and serving the individuals of our nation, together with caring for the people in their own family. One such instance is relative to the mobility involved in a military life. Military families are on the move an average of every 2 to 4 years. Navigating the tides of such consistent change often serves to build strength and resilience, but it also requires a mindful approach for parents as they prepare for relocation.
A common thread within the military parent psyche is to structure their children's lives in a manner that will encourage and enhance determination, perseverance, and resilience as they acclimate and integrate within everchanging environments. For parents who need to consider children with special needs, school moves can be even more challenging, due to a wide array of procedural differences across the nation. Navigating the transition process for students who have Individualized Education Programs (IEP) in place is eased through charting the course with some focused steps in preparation for new-school registration, even prior to your Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders.
Create an education binder for your child and hand-carry this essential portfolio with you when you move. Organize your child's documents from immunization records to IEP documents. The binder is a valuable tool in supporting appropriate placement and services for your child, as they transition from school to school. As documents are obtained, separate, categorize, and organize them into chronological order (with most current on top). Numbering each document and making a chronological list, to serve as a Table of Contents, can be included to support growth of the binder, as well as accessibility and understanding for the reader. In order to remain proactive in your always-imminent departures and arrivals, connect with the attendance/registration clerk at your current and future sites. These folks are most upto-date on education code and registration procedures. Krystal Hall, an attendance and registration clerk within the Snowline Joint Unified School District in CA, is a wealth of information for parents and children new to the school. Like many front office school personnel, Mrs. Hall wears various hats at her site. In Hall's case, she assists in coordinating Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS) efforts at the school, which dovetails nicely with her role and the families she serves. PBIS is schoolwide approach to assist school personnel in adopting and organizing evidence based practices (EBP) to include interventions into an integrated continuum, in order to enhance academic and social behavioral outcomes for ALL students (pbis.org). Because of her specialization within the PBIS team, coupled with her knowledge of attendance and registration, Hall is mindful as she considers beneficial practices to support students during transitional times of their lives. She advises that in addition to immunization records, parents should have on-hand a copy of their most recent IEP document and, if applicable, behavior support plan (BSP) and health plan, in order to avoid possible lag time that may occur between exiting district and entering district, as back to school dates vary across districts. By providing paperwork that might otherwise be delayed, opportunity for a smoother transition with appropriate services and placement will occur. Some things that should be included in your child's education binder include, as applicable:
MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION: Military families are on the move an average of every 2 to 4 years. Navigating the tides of such consistent change often serves to build strength and resilience, but it also requires a mindful approach for parents as they prepare for relocation.
• Individualized Education Program (IEP) documents, including addendums.
• Behavior Support Plans (BSP)
• Health Plans
• Medication instructions and releases (if provided to student at school)
• Standardized evaluations, including psychoeducational, speech/language, occupational therapy, behavior, etc.
• Progress Toward Goals reports
• General Education Grade reports
• Work samples
• Test scores (District and State)
• Teacher communications
• Transcripts (for secondary students)
• Immunization records
• Birth certificate
Prior to moving, find out as much as possible about district and/or state registration guidelines. Hall, who has been in the business of school attendance and registration for more than 10 years, notes that registration, document release, and timelines for release of information vary widely across the nation. Once the attending school is determined, scout it out. Many schools have limited office hours during the summer, which is the peak PCS season; therefore initial contact may need to be to the district office. Some ways to get set for the process of registration and attendance, which will help prepare for the academic and social aspects of the school, include:
• Call the district or the school site to determine specific dates, place and requirements for registration.
• Check to see if a new student orientation or back to school event is scheduled.
• Drive by the school or visit the campus if it is open. Open up a discussion with your child about the similarities and differences between the old school(s) and the new one. (Playground equipment, landscaping, number of buildings, etc.).
• Take a virtual tour. Visit the district and school websites:
n n PLAN OF ACTION: Visit the district and school websites to review the upcoming calendar and schedule of events. Mark minimum days, holidays, and special events on your family calendar. Read the mission statements and leadership letters. Discuss these communications as a family.
n PLAN OF ACTION: Visit the district and school websites to review the upcoming calendar and schedule of events. Mark minimum days, holidays, and special events on your family calendar. Read the mission statements and leadership letters. Discuss these communications as a family. Review the upcoming calendar and schedule of events. Mark minimum days, holidays, and special events on your family calendar. Discuss and plan for the events.
n Share website pictures of the school site, principal, teachers, and librarian and/or school events.
n Determine if special programs are available for tutoring, after or before school programs, breakfast or lunch programs, music and choir, etc.
n Review the transportation link. Are there buses? If so, where are the stops? Are there fees associated with bus services?
n where are the stops? Are there fees associated with bus services? Review the parent handbook. Is there a dress code? Can children bring toys to school? What is the homework policy?
n Check to see if there is a newsletter or other information from the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) or Parent Teacher Organization (PTO). Do they sell school spirit items, such as tee shirts, caps, or notebooks? When will the membership drive occur?
PLAN OF ACTION: Visit the district and school websites to review the upcoming calendar and schedule of events. Mark minimum days, holidays, and special events on your family calendar.
ON THE MOVE: THE IEP AND YOUR FAMILY
Today's framework for special education hinges upon the passage of The Education for All handicapped Children Act, signed into law by President ford in 1975. This law is currently known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Through this legislation, children identified with a specific range of disabilities are afforded a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE) via the IEP. Special education is defined in IDEA as specially designed instruction to meet the unique needs of a child with disabilities. The individualized instruction mandated through IDEA, requires that instruction and teaching techniques be supported through specifically trained special educators, in order to meet the student's unique needs and provide some educational benefit.
The IEP is a binding document that notes school's commitment of special education and related services to be provided by the school district. During the annual IEP meeting, parents gain information about their student's progress, present levels of performance, and proposed new goals moving forward. This IEP signifies the end of one IEP and the beginning of a new IEP.
IDEA 2004 provides for students with an IEP, who are in transition to include:
• THE REGULATION OF THE TRANSMITTAL OF RECORDS: This section states that the new school will take steps to promptly obtain the child's records, to include IEP, supporting documents, and records that relate to the provision of special education and related services.
• TRANSFER WITHIN THE SAME STATE: Provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE), to include services comparable to those described in the previously held IEP, in consultation with the parents, until such time as
With all of the preparation work completed, parents can head to the school registration point with confidence. Once time and place of the process is determined, provision of appropriate documents to the registration clerk can commence in an organized and streamlined manner. Some things before you head over to the site include:
• Make it fun! Plan for a picnic or an ice cream cone outing afterward.
• Just like when you go grocery shopping, be sure no one leaves the house hungry. Low blood sugar can cause confusion and short tempers in the best of us.
• Inquire whether copies of your child's documents will be made at the point of contact, or whether you should have an extra copy on hand at registration.
• Do you need to have copies of utility bills or rental agreement to provide proof of residency?
• Be sure that you have your identification.
• Have a list of your approved contacts and their contact information.
• It is always helpful to have your own blue or black ink pen, just in case there is a crowd.
With the paperwork streamlined, families can focus upon the adventure and fun of discovering the treasures of their new hometown. Visit the school, connect with new neighbors, and discover local parks and libraries. Explore neighboring stores and malls for back-to-school ideas and local trends.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Angela Shaw is a special educator in So. California. She synthesizes her diverse education and experience to collaborate with families and staff to promote success and encourage the students in her care to be life-long learners. Shaw's publishing focus is upon special education topics to include articles: "How to Find the Best Educational Services for your Child with ASD" (August 2016, Autism Parenting Magazine) and "7 Things a Child with Dyslexia Wishes You Knew" (March 2017, Exceptional Parent Magazine). Shaw earned her MAs in Special Education and School Counseling from Azusa Pacific University. Her son-in-law is an active duty U.S. Coast Guard. Shaw and her husband spend much of their free time adventuring to various PCS locations and enjoying every possible minute with their son-in-law, daughter, and baby grandson.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 pbis.org
the school district adopts the previous IEP or develops, adopts, and implements a new IEP that is consistent with Federal and State law.
• TRANSFER OUTSIDE STATE: Provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE), to include services comparable to those described in the previously held IEP, in consultation with the child's parents—until such time as the district conducts an evaluation, if determined to be necessary, and develops a new IEP, if appropriate, that is consistent with Federal and State law. Although a transfer IEP meeting is in your child's imminent future, it is always a great idea to touch base with your child's special education teacher, prior to the formal IEP meeting. Typically, teachers are contract ed a few days before the first day of school, for in-services and preparation of the school year. Ask the attendance/registration clerk or school principal if you can email the special education teacher. Although the teacher will be busy with preparations, he or she will be pleased to hear from you about the arrival of your student and the fact that you have documents in hand to share. Work samples and recent report cards are very helpful for the new teacher to be able to peruse to prepare an appropriate program for your child. Additionally, present levels of performance (PLOP) can more readily be ascertained and considered when writing the updated IEP goals. This essential data, which is organized within your educational binder, is beneficial for your child, as he/she transitions to the new program.