Fort Myers IEP Assistance & Planning Help for Middle School Accommodations
At FOCUS Therapy, our practice is mainly centered around early intervention with younger kids. That said, some of our patients continue to work with us through elementary school and beyond. The transition from elementary to middle school can be a big one – and our Fort Myers IEP Assistance & Planning team can help parents advocate for the appropriate school accommodations and modifications.
The term “accommodation” is used to describe an alteration of environment, curriculum format, or equipment that allows someone with a disability to complete assigned tasks or gain access to content. Accommodations allow students to pursue a regular course of study, but they don’t alter what’s being taught. Examples of accommodations our Fort Myers IEP Assistance & Planning team might advocate for are things like extended time for students with learning disabilities or fine motor limitations.
A modification is a change to the curriculum. This is typically extended to students with disabilities who aren’t able to comprehend the content being taught. Examples of accommodations would be things like reducing and substantially modifying the content a child is taught and the tasks they are expected to complete.
Students with a 504 Plan under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 or an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) are entitled to accommodations and possibly modifications that will allow them to learn to the best of their ability in the least restrictive environment.
The key to academic success for a child with disabilities often comes down to having the right adaptations, accommodations, modifications, and supports in the classroom. These should be individualized for each student, based on their needs, personal learning styles, interests, and abilities. That said, here are some generalized steps our Fort Myers IEP Assistance & Planning team can offer for parents who are getting ready for the upcoming school year:
- Start gathering all relevant information and documentation. Hopefully, your child’s elementary school IEP / 504 Plan team was understanding and did their best to help your child succeed. But middle school is the start of some big changes. That can be intimidating for both parent and child. Doing your best to be prepared can go a long way toward building confidence and allowing you to approach this meeting with a positive attitude and spirit of cooperation with this new team. You should gather your child’s IEP or 504 Plan, their most recent report cards, homework, progress reports, correspondence with teachers or administrators, doctors’ letters, therapy plans-of-care, health care records, standardized tests, evaluations, medication/instruction lists, etc. Include some notes of your own about your child’s performance at school and their behavior.
- Meet with a Fort Myers IEP Assistance & Planning advocate. Once you have all these materials, meet up with an advocate who has experience in planning/creating/modifying IEP and 504 Plans. Many of our FOCUS therapists have background experience in school-based therapy, so we are closely familiar with this process and the school accommodations/modifications that can help the kids we treat. We’ll help you review this information and determine whether we need to continue with the same list of accommodations, or whether the increasing demands of middle school will mean they will need some additional supports. Be prepared to answer questions like: What is your child currently struggling with in school? What goals do you want your child to reach? Is your child going to need more breaks? If so, when/how/with whom will those breaks occur? What accommodations are they going to need in spaces outside the classroom – like the cafeteria, restroom, library, or locker room? How will medications be dispensed if needed? What behavioral or disciplinary practices/methods are used by teachers to deal with students who have special needs? What plans are in place to support my child’s social interaction and growth in recreation/leisure activities? Is there a specific staffer my child can go to if they feel confused/anxious/overwhelmed? Does the school’s emergency evacuation plans take into account the unique needs of my child? What channels of parent communication will be available if issues or concerns arise?
- Approach the meeting with a spirit of cooperation. Our team is here to help and support you however we can. We understand the IEP and 504 Plan processes can be overwhelming and even frustrating for parents. Your first inclination may be to go into it as if you’re facing off with an adversary, guns blazing. However, it’s our experience that approaching the school district team with a positive attitude and a spirit of cooperation is often the most successful. Don’t be afraid to vocalize concerns and push back when you disagree – but if you can do so respectfully and even kindly, chances are better that you’ll have greater success. We can come to the meeting with you to ensure you are heard.
- Prepare your child. Middle school is a big change – and that goes for all kids. Those with disabilities may find the transition even tougher. Take some time to prepare them for the switch. Consider giving them a middle school t-shirt and maybe take them to a school sporting event, play, or concert so they feel more connected to the community. Discuss the upcoming school year with your child, and ask if they have any concerns. Drive by the school a few times so they get used to seeing it. Ask the school if you can take a tour in advance, maybe even meet some of the teachers and staff. If there’s an orientation, take your child. And talk to other parents of middle school kids with IEPs and 504 Plans – they can be great resources!
FOCUS offers pediatric speech, occupational, physical, and ABA therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.
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Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder Subtypes Sept. 1, 2022, Fort Myers IEP Assistance & Planning Team