School’s Back! Five Essentials for the First Week

During our Live Chat with special education advocate Dr. Sarah Pelangka, BCBA-D and owner of Know IEPs, she outlined five essentials parents should keep in mind as kids return to school. Also check out her tips on the hot topics parents should know about before school starts. (If you missed the Live Chat or want to re-watch it, see the recording here!)


  Send an introductory letter/vision statement

Write a vision statement that describes your child’s likes, triggers, strengths, needs, and accommodations and send it to all of their teachers, including those who worked with them last year. You can use this template to get started

This will:

  Create an at-a-glance IEP

This document should contain basic information from your child’s IEP, including their goals, accommodations, and services; this will:

  • Help students gain independence
  • Ensure they are receiving the services they are entitled to
  • Prepare them for when they will have to request their own accommodations in college

You can place this document at the front of their IEP binder for easy access. Our Care Navigators prepare this summary for new clients using the child's IEP (contact your Navigator if you'd like this service, or sign up for a free 30-day trial to get started with one!). If you're writing it yourself, check out our template here to create your own!

 Be aware of what to expect if your child will be attending school in person

Dr. Pelangka highlighted some of the current in-person learning requirements:

  • Children will be required to wear masks indoors, but they are optional outdoors.
  • If your child refuses to wear a mask, ask if they can wear an alternative such as a face shield with a drape over the edge. Or have mask breaks written into their IEP.
  • If they still refuse to wear a mask, the district has to offer a “comparable educational alternative.”
  • Schools will be fully reopened, and while no physical distancing requirements are in place, material sharing will be limited. Students will also be allowed to bring in personal items, like backpacks.
  • Schools will continue to sanitize regularly but health screenings are no longer required, just recommended.
  • The state of California is offering free lunch to all students!

  Assessment plans

Dr. Pelangka recommends asking your district to wait for about 30 days, depending on how quickly your child is able to adapt, before offering an assessment plan. The last year and a half has been difficult, and many SpEd students struggle with changes in routine. Your child may need time to acclimate. Read more about IEP evaluations here and assessments during COVID-19 here.

  Ongoing progress monitoring

Progress monitoring will be important for your child to help prevent them from falling behind, ensure they are acclimating well to their learning environment, and to ascertain if their needs have changed since the pandemic.

You can have monthly or bi-monthly meetings written into your child’s IEP. In a worst-case scenario, continue to call meetings yourself, as the district must convene within 30 days. Read more about how to request an IEP meeting here.


Did these tips help you feel more prepared? What did you find most helpful? Do you have any lingering anxiety? Let us know in the comments!

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