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Back-to-School Tips for Parents and Students with I/DD

The beginning of a new school year often creates a wealth of emotions, including excitement and anxiety. But with a few strategies, this transition time can set both you and your child with intellectual or developmental disabilities up for a year of success.

Before opening school doors, administrators, teachers, and staff spend many hours planning for the arrival of their students. But, even with all that planning, therapists and teachers may not be familiar with your child’s specific needs, especially in a new school environment. To alleviate any oversight and to set your child up for success this school year, here are a few tips provided by Rocky Mountain Human Services’ Denver Public Schools (DPS) Liaison, Julianne Suby.

Review Details of IEP and 504 Plans

Toward the beginning of the new school year, schedule time to review the key points in your child’s IEP or 504 plan with teachers and staff. During those meetings, you should provide information about your child’s strengths and challenges, along with strategies you found to work well. Such tips may include social stories, effective sensory tools, calming methods, or phrases that your child understands. You know your child best, and teachers and staff should welcome your advice and strategies that create opportunities for growth and celebration.

Create an Effective Communication Strategy

Remember, communication is key! We have all heard the term ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’ and isn’t that true? The school community is a crucial piece of this village and creating a dedicated support network is vital to student educational and mental success. Establishing a mode of communication early in the school year will aid you in keeping up with how your child is progressing in real time. Decide what information is important for all of you to know and discuss this need with your child’s teacher. Back-and-forth books are a positive way for teachers and guardians to stay connected and share critical information with one another on a routine basis. Determine what is important to know and how often you would like to communicate. Would you like daily or weekly communication? Are there times of day or specific academics you would like to know about? Perhaps your child finds transitions or mealtimes challenging, and you would like daily updates.

Your student could also benefit from participating in these daily captures. Include them in the updates by discussing their day or asking them to share something. Adding their voice will aid them in developing communication, reading, and writing skills, and enhance their recall abilities. Involving your child in daily or weekly communications will also provide them with a sense of ownership and accountability.

Partner with an Advocate

Working with an advocate can help you navigate the supports and resources available to you and your student and create continuity between your child’s life in school and at home. The Family Support Services Program at Rocky Mountain Human Services provides that advocacy for students with developmental delays or disabilities and their families in the Denver Public School Systems. Family Support Service Coordinators help you navigate various systems, connect you to community resources, and offer financial support for identified needs that are beyond typical child rearing and daily living expenses.

Starting a new school year is an exciting time for new opportunities and growth. Forming a routine, practicing consistent communication, and working with an advocate will help to establish a collaborative relationship and aid your child in starting a successful school year.

To learn more about The Family Support Services Program and to explore eligibility for your student with I/DD, visit our website or contact us at or 303-636-5862.

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