If you have any questions regarding back to school preparation, contact one of our attorneys at (203) 221-3100.

Place Your IEPs, Evaluation Reports, and Other Paperwork in Chronological Order

Once you’ve arranged each school record chronologically (either from earliest to most recent or vice versa), you can review the stack and determine which items to keep, mark as significant, and note any potentially missing documents (such as a speech-language evaluation from last spring that should accompany the annual review IEP). Using a three-hole punch and a large binder can help keep everything organized initially. If you later decide to reorganize by category rather than by date, you can easily make that adjustment. This method is particularly beneficial for recalling events from the previous year and identifying what needs attention moving forward. For instance, you might discover that your child achieved certain goals in February, yet they still appear in the current IEP for September. Armed with this information, you can raise these points during the next IEP team meeting to discuss whether these goals should be revised or replaced with new ones.

Additional tip: Consider printing out any pertinent emails exchanged with your child’s teachers, administrators, and service providers, both within and outside of school. Arrange these emails chronologically alongside other school-provided records. While not always essential, this can provide context for important discussions that occurred via email and help integrate them with the overall documentation of your child’s progress and educational journey.

Get a Notebook or Agenda for Home Communication

If you notice a recurring theme emphasizing the use of physical copies and traditional writing tools, you’re correct. While many parents find convenience in smartphones and email for organization and accessing information, there’s something uniquely effective about physically organizing thoughts with ink in a notebook. Holding and flipping open a notebook allows for meticulous tracking of small details that can sometimes be overlooked in the virtual realm.

Your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) may or may not specify “home-school communication” in some form. Establishing a system for regular check-ins between parents and educators to document a child’s daily progress at school is typically beneficial. You can tailor these communications to specific classes or programs (such as ongoing updates on reading, which may be a focus of the IEP) or certain aspects of your child’s educational needs (like a daily behavior sheet noting moods, conversations, and any challenges). Email can serve this purpose effectively too, but there’s a sense of liberation in having a dedicated space to record daily notes, reflections, and even the less pleasant realities of each school day.

This kind of detailed insight isn’t typically found in IEP progress reports on goals and objectives or standard report cards. While email communications might capture some of these details, jotting them down in a calendar or log creates a tangible record to refer back to later, documenting any ongoing issues or incidents.

Read the IEP and Take Notes for Your First Meeting

This tip is complex because everyone has a unique approach to reviewing the IEP. Some may prefer simply highlighting key elements for future reference. Others might benefit from creating a separate list of questions about the IEP to discuss with their child’s teachers, given that the document itself can be challenging to navigate. The only ineffective strategy is to glance at the cover page and then store the IEP without further review (see item #1).

Don’t worry if you received your child’s new IEP back in May and are only now beginning to review it. It’s important to take a look before the school year starts. Personally, I find it beneficial to meticulously list out the most significant aspects of the IEP, either by page or section. Even if you comprehend the goals and objectives upon reading them, rewriting the IEP in a way that resonates with you can make it easier to reference quickly. For any sections you find confusing, highlight or make notes in your own notebook with specific questions, such as: “How does this counseling goal, focusing on identifying emotions, relate to improving my child’s social skills in unstructured activities?” This approach is more effective than vague inquiries like “What does this goal mean?”

Create a List of Important School Contacts

It may seem simple, yet it holds great importance: avoid relying solely on auto-fill when composing emails. It’s advantageous to maintain a concise contact list so you can easily recall each person’s role and know who should receive copies of specific emails. Have you ever needed to send an email but couldn’t locate the name and address of a crucial contact? This can lead to postponing the email or forgetting to send it altogether. That’s why I find it beneficial to keep a separate list easily accessible. Whether stored on your computer or on your physical desktop, having this list handy is invaluable.

Make a Schedule to Have a Visual of Your Child’s Daily Routine

This advice may seem straightforward to seasoned parents juggling their families’ busy lives, especially with school commitments. However, my aim here is twofold: (1) organize both morning and evening routines, including school and after-school activities, in a way that suits your busy schedule, whether visually or using another effective method, (2) for the school-day section, break down the educational hours and services outlined in the Individualized Education Program (IEP) visually, according to the time of day, etc.

Instead of simply referencing the IEP service grid to note that your child receives 1.5 hours per week of separate language arts instruction, find a method to visually or list these details on the daily and weekly schedule. For example, this information might indicate three half-hour sessions per week on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. in room #201 with the special education teacher and a paraprofessional. Be as specific as necessary to help you and your child keep track of the day comfortably. If you often find yourself calling the school for updates, it’s helpful to know where your child is, which teachers are available to speak with you, and so forth.

I understand these strategies may seem more detailed compared to typical upbeat back-to-school blog posts, but they reflect the practical steps parents must take upfront to manage their children’s packed schedules. If everything runs smoothly and this level of planning proves unnecessary, that’s fantastic! However, if issues arise, being well-prepared allows you to understand the school day activities and promptly address any concerns that may arise mid-year.

Maya Murphy P.C. has proudly been included in the 2024 Edition of Best Law Firms®, ranked among the top firms in the nation. In addition, Managing Partner Joseph C. Maya has been selected to The Best Lawyers in America® 2024 for his work in Employment Law and Education Law in Connecticut. Recognition in Best Lawyers® is awarded to firms and attorneys who demonstrate excellence in the industry and is widely regarded by both clients and legal professionals as a significant honor.

Our firm in Westport, Connecticut serves clients with legal assistance all over the state, including the towns of Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Bethany, Bethel, Branford, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Cheshire, Danbury, Darien, Derby, East Haven, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Guilford, Hamden, Madison, Meriden, Middlebury, Milford, Monroe, Naugatuck, New Canaan, New Fairfield, New Haven, Newton, North Branford, North Haven, Norwalk, Orange, Oxford, Prospect, Redding, Ridgefield, Seymour, Shelton, Sherman, Southbury, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Wallingford, Waterbury, West Haven, Weston, Westport, Wilton, and Woodbridge. In addition to assisting clients in Connecticut, our firm handles education law matters in New York as well.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to an attorney about a legal matter, please contact Joseph C. Maya and the other experienced attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. at (203) 221-3100 or to schedule a free initial consultation today.