Start the Year Off Right

By Eve Kessler, Esq.

With the long, lazy days of summer about to end, it’s time to begin thinking about the new school year. Whatever the goals are for this year, staying on top of your child’s academic and social adjustment will enable you to address issues before they become full-blown problems. Following are strategies to help your child get off to a good start—and continue down that path for the remainder of the year.

  1. Talk to your child: Find the right time to discuss how she feels about school, as well as her likes and dislikes. Until she settles in to her new environment, she may be nervous or anxious. Encourage her to verbalize concerns. That will help you allay them, and it will also help you evaluate how her adjustment progresses. Recurring issues may signal the need for further action on your part.
  2. Meet with your child’s teachers: Check in with her teachers early in the new semester. Find out if she’s doing her homework (and doing it correctly), and if she’s completing classwork independently. If she’s had specific problems in the past (e.g., beginning but not completing assignments, difficulty following instructions, etc.) ask her teachers if she’s showing signs of those problems again. And definitely ask about her social situation as that may impact her academics.
  3. Observe behaviors: Does she complain about not feeling well or invent excuses in order to stay home from school? Does she have friends? Does she talk about or know the names of classmates? Does she use only negative comments when talking about school? Continued problems in these areas suggest the need to get involved, and work closely with her teachers to try to turn around her negative attitude.
  4. Get organized: Develop a profile of your child’s strengths and concerns, both in and out of school.
  • Keep an ongoing file or journal of meetings, phone calls, letters, etc.
  • Put every concern, request and objection in writing to all involved.
  • Compile a binder with tabs for evaluations, IEPs, samples of current performance (writing samples, tests, projects, activities, homework, etc.) and written communications.
  • Include a chart listing all evaluations by date, evaluator, test given, major areas of concern, and recommendations.
  • Make two copies of all evaluations/reports; keep one as an original and use the other as a working copy.
  • Bring this file/binder with you to all meetings regarding your child.

Eve Kessler, Esq., an attorney with The Legal Aid Society, NYC, is President of SPED*NET Wilton (CT) and a Contributing Editor of Smart Kids.

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