Starting a new school year is exciting and challenging. When your child has extra support needs there are many things to consider; it can feel overwhelming. Each family’s circumstance is unique and requires a student-centred approach.
During this year’s back to school, we find ourselves facing a number of uncertainties. However, we want all parents and caregivers to know all children have the right to be in school and to have an equitable access to quality education. Read more about the right to education in this short article from Inclusive Education Canada.
Inclusive education welcomes all students into regular classrooms with their same-age peers, in their community, with well thought out support and accommodations that ensure equitable opportunities for all students to learn, contribute, and participate in all aspects of school life.
Based on our learnings from supporting hundreds of families to advocate for their children’s right to an inclusive education, we have a few ideas that can support you to get started. Some of them can be done as the school term starts, others can wait. Take your time and know that there’s support available to you.
1. Write a one-page profile about your child for the school team
Share who they are, what they like, and how to best support them. Have fun and add a photo or a drawing.
Here are a few examples:
- myBooklet BC is a free on-line resource, created by a parent
- Who Am I? is an online fillable pdf that you can complete, download, and print
2. Learn the names and contact information of the school team
You can ask at your school or sometimes the school website will have this information. *Some of these names and titles will be a little different in each district
Here are some people to get to know:
- EA (Education Assistant)
- Resource Teacher and/or Learning Support Teacher
- Principal and/or Vice Principal
3. Learn what an Individual Education Plan (IEP) is
An IEP will shape the learning of your child for the year. Most IEP meetings are in October or November. The IEP must be reviewed at least once each school year and can be revised when necessary. Connect with your school district to learn about the IEP format they use.
Here are some IEP resources:
- POPARD Video explaining IEP’s
- IEP Parent Guide from BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils
- IEP Template example from a School District
- Video about IEP goals from the Five Moore Minutes video series by Shelley Moore
4. Check out informative videos or short articles
There are a variety of resources about what school might be like for your child, how you can help, or get more information.
Here are a few to start with:
- Strategies for a Successful Kindergarten Year is a short film about a parent helping their child successfully transition and succeed in their first year at school.* POPARD focuses on Autism, however the ideas and strategies can be helpful for many students with support needs
- Exercising Self Determination in our Schools is a short film from our Inclusive Education series
- Social Emotional Health from BC Centre for Ability shares information and a video about promoting social emotional health in school aged children
5. Reach out when needed
If back to school this year feels challenging, please reach out for support.
Here are a few ideas:
- Exclusion Tracker if your child is being excluded, we encourage you to fill in BCEDAccess’ Exclusion Tracker. They are collecting data to document experiences of exclusion in B.C.
- Family support – there are several peer networks you can connect with like the Family Support Institute of BC which is a provincial volunteer parent network
- Advocacy support – at Inclusion BC we are here to help. You can connect with one of our Community Inclusion Advocates through our Advocacy Line by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or calling 1-844-488-4321.
There will always be things to learn and do. This is a good start. Make it manageable to you and remember, take it one-step at a time.
If you found this information helpful, please consider sharing it with your networks.