Now that school is back in session, we are getting this question quite frequently. There is a long answer (which we will begin to get into) but the short answer is that it is complicated but not impossible to get help for your struggling student from the school if you know the right questions to ask.
We wanted to walk you through the steps of getting the help you know that your child so desperately needs. Because this can be a complicated process we decided to break it down in the same way we break tasks down for our students.
- Make a list of the concerns you have regarding your child in the classroom. We have a number of printable resources available in our Understanding How To Get Help From the School online course that you can use to help organize your thinking around this.
Really we want to be thinking about which subjects are causing the most difficulty (e.g., reading, writing, math, specials?) Then we want to be thinking about what specific activities in those classes are making things difficult (e.g., is writing difficult because it's hard for your student to brainstorm or is music difficult because it's too loud and unstructured?) You also want to think about what difficulties you are seeing at home.
Write a letter or an email (we have templates available in our online course) to your child's teacher.
Ask to set up a meeting as soon as possible to discuss your concerns.
Ask the teacher if they are noticing similar concerns.
Make sure you follow-up as teachers can be busy but you don't want your inability to get in touch with your child's teacher to delay getting the help you need.
Meet with the teacher to discuss your concerns.
If you don't hear back from your child's teacher within an appropriate time frame (more than a week) you may need to consider including the school principal on the email to get things moving.
During this meeting ask whether your child's teacher has similar concerns, if so - what is being done in the classroom to address the concerns? If the teacher does not have similar concerns, ask what data they are using to monitor student growth and progress. How would he or she know if your child was not meeting grade-level expectations?
If you and your child's teacher have concerns, it is likely that the teacher may recommend the Response to Intervention (RtI) process in which the teacher will provide small group intervention known as Tier 2 intervention for 6-week intervals monitoring to see whether the intervention was helping your child progress forward academically.
If your child is going to move through the RtI process it is of critical importance that you ask the teacher:
What intervention is being done?
How is progress being monitored?
How will you be informed of the results?
RtI can be a great tool if used correctly for students who are right on the cusp of average student performance. Unfortunately, at times, it can also be a tool that's used to delay getting your child the help he or she really needs.
If you have serious concerns about your child's academic skills or if your child is getting older and you feel that they still aren't getting the help that they need:
- You may want to consider requesting in writing to have your child tested for Individual Education Program (IEP) eligibility.
Do not ask the school to test your child for dyslexia or a specific learning disability because they will say they don't offer that service. What the school can and will do (within 60 days by federal law) is perform IEP eligibility testing and you have the right to request this testing whether or not the child has completed the RtI process.
After the eligibility evaluation, you will have a meeting scheduled with the school IEP team. Often this includes you, the child's teacher, an administrator, the school psychologist, the special education teacher, and any other professionals who completed testing (the speech pathologist, occupational therapist, social worker, etc.)
During this meeting, the determination will be made on whether or not your child qualifies for services.
- If he qualifies - you will work on creating goals and assigning minutes from each service provider along with determining which accommodations and modifications will be most helpful.
- If he does not qualify - you will need to determine how he will be supported in the general education classroom, whether a 504 Plan may be an option, and what you can do outside of the classroom to help support your child.
All that to say - it is a long process.
And, beyond Step Six there is still a complex process to getting your child the support he or she needs and then making sure that the plan is followed through. Because we hear this question so often, we created an online course specifically for parents with students that are struggling academically that would benefit from extra support in reading, writing, or math.
If you are interested in learning more - consider signing up for our online course so that you can have the confidence (and lingo) you will need going into the school.