Gearing Up For Next (School) Year

As someone who works in education, these next few weeks are the time that is very bittersweet. We’re glad to see the year come to a close, but we are sad because we will miss the children that we have spent quite a bit of time with. While we will see many of them return in the Fall a little older, and a little taller, there will be a few we will not see again. We also have the humongous task of making sure all the paperwork for each child (your child included!) is complete and ready for the next school year. It’s quite a task, and for those of us who work in education AND have a Special Needs child, this is also the time where we as parents are called into meetings for our own children, to navigate the path for the upcoming year and sometimes beyond. Mostly beyond.

Yesterday, I had my son’s first (and only) High School Articulation Meeting and we laid out his educational plan for his Freshman Year. I’m genuinely excited about the coming year. Everything looks good on paper, and if it goes according to plan it will work out beautifully. Even with Standardized Testing as part of the equation; there should be no reason for him to not graduate with a General/Regular Diploma. We expect nothing less.

Now, I’m coming from the place of High-Functioning Autism. My son is in mainstream classes with accommodations to help him with large tasks all the way down to the most mundane. Some of the things that are part of my son’s IEP include:

Longer time to complete assignments. He still has to do it, but if it is a project or something that he needs more time to complete, then this is available to him. This has come in handy because while my son does his work, he may not always turn it in. This allows him to receive full credit on something he just simply forgot to turn in when due. Spiff doesn’t understand time and due dates and “Turn this in on a Thursday.” When he is done with something, he is done. Sometimes even the most well-intentioned teacher forgets to remind him in our special way to turn his work in.

Access to a Resource Room. All schools should have one. If they don’t, they should make one. It is usually the offices of the Special Education Teachers or the Special Education Team. It can also be the office of a Behavioral Specialist in your school (you have one of those? You’re SO. LUCKY.!). It will have comfortable chairs and maybe a computer and possibly a “decompression center” with a soft chair and something to read or paper to draw on. Their time there should be brief. The idea is to get them through whatever is stressing them out, but the goal is to get them back into the classroom as quickly as possible so they can resume their day. Your child will no doubt be around these people for quite a bit during their school day as well.

Special Transportation. (Otherwise known as the ShortBus; however many school systems use the regular sized buses now, and thank goodness!) Here’s the thing: My son gets picked up from my driveway, dropped off at school, and then picked up from school and dropped back off in front of my driveway. At no extra cost to me. Or you. It is funded with Federal Funds. Generally other Special Ed. students from the same school are also on the bus, as well as a minder to help the bus driver with the kids. By being on this bus, and not a regular one, it cuts down on bullying amongst the students. If this is something your district offers, I highly recommend you take it. I also recommend you request the cell phone number of your driver (both if your child has a different driver in the PM) and you get to know the person transporting your child to and from school each day. We have known our bus driver for 6 years now, and she called me personally to let me know she was going to be driving Spiff to and from high school. She was very happy to learn he was again on her route. (We were thrilled too!)

Physical Education. I’m a parent who is incredibly aware of my son’s limitations. I know what makes him tick, and what makes him melt into a puddle of goo. So with that in mind, I had a dilemma. How do I wrestle the giant that is PE credits required for a High School Diploma and yet keep my son out of the locker room where he would not function at all? I did some research, and found an ideal solution:

Online Virtual School

Many school districts will have an accommodated PE program for Special Ed students, but beware, because if you plan for your child to receive a Regular Diploma they need to have classes that can double as electives and be recognized as such. Most PE classes can be modified, but it might cost your child his or her regular diploma. With Virtual Schools (or Online School) your child can take required PE classes under the supervision of a Certified Teacher and yourself. Once your child has satisfied the requirements (for ours we got to use the WiiFit in our curriculum!) they receive the credit that they can apply to the school curriculum.

Check your state for access for your student, and your school guidance counselor can also be a source of information (you will also need them to approve the classes in the system). We live in Florida, so if you live in Florida, Florida Online Virtual School ( can help you.

Co-Teaching Classrooms. Many states already practice Inclusion in their schools, and this can be a benefit for a special needs child. A co-taught classroom will have a special education teacher in the classroom to help the Regular Education teacher work with students with varying exceptionalities. It provides a one-on-one experience for your student in a mainstream classroom. This is not to be confused with Team Teaching; where two teachers are in one classroom teaching essentially two classrooms full of students in one room. (We have been in classrooms like that, and it did not go well.)

There are other things in an IEP that can benefit your child. I’m touching on these because these are the ones that at the middle and high school level can make a huge impact for your child. I know they have for mine.

High school is going to be interesting.

Study Time

Hope this helps! What are some of the things you have done for/with your child to better their educational experience?

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