Ready or not, October is here.

If your child has a disability and receives services and supports through an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), October is an ideal time to take stock of how things are going.

Why? October means school has been back in session for a month or more. Routines and building schedules are up and running. Administrators, teachers, staff and students should mostly be settled in by now. And for students with IEPs, work on goals should be happening. Your child also should be receiving their accommodations and supports as they need them. And overall, school should be working reasonably well. Not perfectly. But reasonably well (and remember – school for a disabled student is more than just what’s in their IEP).

As a parent, how can you get a sense of how things are going at school?

Here’s my list of five ways to help you do that.

  1. Is your child bringing home completed work? If your district uses an internet platform for recording grades and tracking assignments, login and see how your child is doing with turning in their work. If completed work is mostly kept at school, you can make an appointment to review it. Just email your child’s teacher and ask for a date/time to look at your child’s portfolio. No matter the method and no matter your child’s level of functioning, by October there should be some completed and/or ongoing work you can assess.
  2. If your child can answer questions, ask them about their IEP, but keep it simple and focused. For example, if there’s a goal to write a five-sentence paragraph, ask them to tell you about it (“What did you write about? Was it hard to come up with three sentences?”). Same goes with non-academic skills (“How’s it going with putting your backpack and folder away each day?”)
    For accommodations like sensory breaks or preferential seating, ask them if they are offered those options when they need them. For related services, ask your child what skills are being worked on (e.g., speech, OT or PT).
  3. Sometimes our students can’t communicate with us about what’s going on at school. Or, if they can, they may not pick up on information relevant to their IEP. That’s where a simple email to the teachers/IEP team can help. Ask them how work is going on the goals, accommodations/modifications and services, as outlined in point two above.
  4. And arguably the most important question – ask yourself – how do you feel school is going? There are some clues you have as parent. Does your child seem mostly OK with going to school each day, or are they refusing? Do they feel overwhelmed by homework in the evenings, or are they mostly able to tolerate it? Are they able to share with you, or can you observe, something new that they’ve learned or progress they’ve made? What is your gut feeling?
  5. Ask your IEP team and all teachers working with your how you can support learning at home. Not only does this help your child’s teachers, it can also give you a pretty good sense of what your team is prioritizing at school.

Of course not all these suggestions work for every child, because each IEP (should) reflect a student’s unique needs. There are also other ways to take stock of how the school year is going so far. But no matter what method you choose, don’t wait and don’t assume the parent/teacher conference will be the best forum for you as a parent to get a sense of how things are going. These quick check-ins are an easy-to-use and important tool for parents to stay engaged as equal partners in the IEP process and in the education of their child overall.