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5 tips to get your children ready for a great school year!

Parents, here we go!  Most schools are open for the full day to start the year. Some students have never experienced this while others have had a very long break from full day in person school days. Here are 5 tips to get your children ready for a great start to this year no matter what new changes may arise.

  • Bedtime: We all let things slide during the summer. Bedtime is a biggie. Make that dreaded early wake up on that first day less challenging by starting to dial back bedtimes. Put your kids to bed 30 minutes earlier each day.
  • Masks: Most schools are requiring masks while indoors. Start reinforcing proper mask wearing for longer periods of time. Remind them to keep those masks over their mouth and nose!
  • Shorten your morning routines by preparing at night. Set out clothes the night before. Make lunches the night before. Prep breakfast ahead as much as possible. Make sure backpacks are packed and by the door. This eliminates 2 huge things from the morning rush to get out of the house. (and minimizes the chance of forgetting anything!)
  • Homework: Establish an after school routine right away. Things get busy. There’s dance and soccer and school activities etc. Have a routine that is predictable but flexible if needed. (ie. Homework right after school then playtime or play for a designated time then homework). Have snacks ready for your kids. Most of them have not had anything to fuel them for 3-4 hours. Designate places for homework that are close to you so you can assist where needed and can make sure they are making the most of their time. Use timers to help them learn time management. If they don’t have any specific homework…THEY SHOULD READ A BOOK! This should be part of homework time on a daily basis.
  • Video Games: Research indicates that there is a strong correlation between playing video games frequently and difficulty attending in school. If at all possible, please eliminate this activity from the morning routine. If your child is an early riser, have coloring books and crayons, or a book at the ready! After school, use video games as a reward for finishing homework. Set a time limit, for this activity especially during the week. House video games outside of your child’s bedroom so that they do not play when they should be sleeping!

How Do I Write a Letter to Request a Special Education Evaluation for My Child?

The first step in obtaining an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), MTSS (Multi-Tiered System of Supports) Services, or a 504 Plan for your child is to write a letter requesting a formal evaluation for special education. This letter should be sent to the principal of your school, and the Director of Special Education for your school district.

In the beginning of the letter, you must stipulate that this is a formal request for a Case Study Evaluation due to your child’s performance in school.

Then, you should include the following information:

  • List all of the times that you have reached out to your child’s teacher based on your areas of concern and the related outcome.
  • Data, data, data…
    • If your child is struggling academically, you should utilize data from standardized test scores such as the MAP test. This data may demonstrate that your child is performing below expectations and/or when your child started to fall short in a specific area.
    • Leverage information that was presented to you at parent / teacher conferences and other meetings you may have already had to address your concerns
    • If applicable, you can also use your child’s current grades


Within the letter, you should request a meeting to discuss what supports are already in place for your case study evaluation. As part of the process, an IEP team should meet to determine the “Identification of Needed Assessments” and what additional supports can be implemented. You should ask for your written consent to gain a better understanding of the process for the testing and assessments.

By law, Illinois school districts are required to respond to you within 14-business days of receipt of the request. This may vary in other states. You should indicate that you understand this law to make sure the school district provides a timely response.

Also, prior to sending the letter, it’s important to make sure your child does not have any missing work in the areas of concern

At the end of the letter, sign and date it, in addition to providing your preferred method of contact

Special Education Guru can expedite the process of writing a letter to request a formal evaluation for special education for your child. We have IEP, MTSS, or 504 Plan form letters you can download for a small fee. Or, we can customize a letter based on your specific needs. Please click here to learn more.

10 Tips for Parents Attending a School Meeting

Parent-teacher meetings are an essential part of your child’s educational process. For the past 23 years, I have been a practicing School Psychologist, and I also have over five years of experience as a Special Education Administrator. I have extensive knowledge of children’s behavioral, social, emotional, and educational development.

I founded Special Education Guru to utilize my experience working inside the educational system to help families understand and obtain all of the educational opportunities and services that are available to their children. I also provide advice, answers to questions, and work as a “go-between” to help parents become a more active and effective participant in their child’s school meetings, parent-teacher meetings, and IEP meetings.

The following ten tips will help you better understand and prepare for your next parent-teacher conference. If you need my help, please feel free to contact me. 

Parent-teacher meetings are a wonderful opportunity to:

  • understand and review your child’s academic progress based on assessments, testing data, classroom observations, and work assignments,
  • receive advice from your child’s teachers about your child’s needs, learning styles, behavior, strengths, weaknesses, and potential disabilities,
  • discuss potential intervention strategies or enrichment programs to best support your child’s learning and progress,
  • and discuss matters that could be hindering your child’s learning and development.

Parent-teacher meetings are brief meetings that last about 30 minutes and are typically offered once or twice a year. Usually, parent-teacher meetings are scheduled at least one month in advance.

IEP and 504 meetings typically last 45 minutes to an hour. These meetings occur annually and upon request for any additional required meeting time.

The coronavirus has helped to make these meetings more convenient with the use of video conferencing technology.  

Tip 1. Maximize The Opportunity of the Parent-Teacher Meetings.

The primary focus of all parent-teacher meetings is your child’s learning, behavioral, and social development. This is the best time to discuss, plan, and make arrangements concerning a wide range of educational matters such as reviewing standardized test results, discussing the possibility of or revising an existing individualized education program (IEP) for your child, creating or submitting your child’s 504 education plans, review your child’s classroom behavior, understand your child’s peer relationships, improve your child’s motivation, improve your child’s work habits, and understand your child’s academic strengths and weaknesses..

Tip 2. Ensure that Your Child’s Other Teachers, School Administrator and Relevant School Staff will be attending. You may wish to Bring Your Own Educational Advocate to Each Parent-Teacher Meeting.

One way you can really enhance the parent-teacher conference is to assemble your child’s instructional team in one meeting. This will help you receive a more balanced assessment of your child’s learning, development, and behavior. Anyone can be a great second set of ears: a good friend or relative is a great resource. A formal educational advocate may be valuable if you feel your child may not be receiving the level of services you feel he or she needs. 

Tip 3. Prepare in Advance.

It is important to prepare for the parent-teacher meeting in advance. Familiarize yourself with your child’s school policies, grade policies, individualized education programs (IEPs), 504 education plans, and any other relevant educational programs and services.

Tip 4. Be Friendly.

You must exercise patience and remain calm, cool, collected during your meeting. When meeting your child’s teachers, make a positive first impression by smiling, and being warm, friendly, and courteous. These meetings can be emotional. It may not be a bad idea to bring a useful, inexpensive, and thoughtful gift for the teacher/school team as a rapport builder and conversation starter.  

Tip 5. Tip 5. If your Child is with you, Bring Items to Keep Your Child Busy and Distracted During the Meeting.

It is recommended that you bring games, puzzles, and an electronic device such as a laptop or mobile device with headphones. This way your child can sit toward the back of the room and watch videos or play games, while the meeting discusses more sensitive topics.  

Tip 6. Bring a Notepad and Pens to Take Notes.

Always take extensive notes during the parent-teacher meetings and ask for clarifications when necessary. This way, you can refer to your notes later and discuss the items with your spouse, educational advocate etc. 

Tip 7. Ask Questions and Listen.

Ask your child’s teachers and school staff for their input concerning your child’s needs, learning styles, strengths, and weaknesses. Try to avoid “yes or no” questions to allow for a more informative answer.

Tip 8. Create a Plan for Both the Classroom and at Home.

Ask your child’s teacher for their suggestions regarding for strategies and activities that support your child’s motivation and learning at home. Define specific academic and learning goals for your child. 

Tip 9. Follow Up.

A “Thank You” card is a nice touch that will help to build a better relationship between you and your child’s teacher. You could also encourage your child to give their teacher a “Thank You” card. In your “Thank You” card, be sure to provide your cell phone number and email. Ask the teacher to contact you for any additional questions or concerns.

Tip 10. Communicate Regularly.

It is always beneficial to send your teacher updates on any guidance that the teacher has provided you. This is really helpful and encourages your child’s teacher to update you on any noticeable improvements. At any time, you may request an additional meeting with the school team.

Bonus Tip. Enhance Your Child’s Learning and Development.

After a parent-teacher meeting and potential frequent progress updates between you and your child’s teacher, review and improve your child’s education plan and at-home strategies. Update any instructional decisions every 3 to 4 months to help your child grow and achieve in the classroom.

If you have any questions about how Special Education Guru can assist you with your child’s educational progress or challenges, please contact us at your earliest convenience.  

How to Advocate for Your Child When He or She is Struggling at School

Is your child struggling to succeed in the classroom?

For over 23 years, I have worked as both a school psychologist and special education administrator. Therefore, I understand “the other side of the table,” and I know the types of questions parents should be asking (and often do not ask) regarding their child’s learning challenges and services for their children.  

Assessing and understanding your child’s specific strengths, weaknesses, social, emotional, academic, and cognitive functioning is essential for successfully advocating for your child’s academic needs and protecting your child’s educational rights. A formal assessment of your child’s academic record, medical records, and simply asking the right questions is the first step in effective advocacy for your child. For more information about these types of services, simply contact us.

When your child is not performing well at school, you should feel comfortable and confident to be your child’s voice. No one knows your child as well as you do. You understand their personality, strengths, weaknesses, and interests. Effective advocacy will ensure that your child has the love and support to have academic success.

What Does it Mean to Advocate for Your Child? 

“Advocate” simply means that someone is “speaking up” on behalf of another. Parents typically advocate or “speak up” for their child when they have concerns about their child’s academic success, behavioral matters, and social situations. For example, if a child is being bullied at school. A child’s parent or guardian will likely want to discuss the matter with the school’s administration. Advocating for your child may also be the process of protecting your child’s interests and rights. 

Tips to Help You Advocate for Your Child’s Best Interests

First, you should feel comfortable with the process of “speaking up” for your child. Have a mindset of, “The squeaky wheel is the one that gets the oil.” If you don’t believe you have a voice or the right to speak up for your child, nothing will improve. Be firm but respectful when advocating for your child’s best interest. You want to persuade corrective action from school staff, teachers, and school administrators. Losing your temper means losing your credibility when advocating for your child’s needs.  

Second, document all of your concerns. At times, issues involving our children can be very emotional. When our emotions “run high,” we often cannot have the clarity to identify all of the issues at hand. Keep a diary of your thoughts and concerns.  

Third, learn your rights as a parent. Understand the programs and services that are relevant and available to your child’s needs. 

Fourth, make helpful, influential connections. If your child needs special services, it would be beneficial for you to meet with any relevant and influential people involved in those services. For example, a child may have a vision disability making it difficult for the child to read the school’s website and/or perform online course materials due to the school’s website colors, design, or font sizes. It might be valuable to familiarize yourself with the Americans With Disability Act (ADA) governing website requirements for the visually impaired and speak with local representatives at your closest ADA center. These representatives will be able to provide information, guidance, and they might assist you in several meaningful ways. 

Fifth, begin speaking with the person or people you trust at your child’s school. Hopefully, you have a good relationship with your child’s teachers. Whomever you have a good relationship with at the school is likely the best person to start advocating on your child’s behalf. Start by asking good, positive, and relevant questions. For example, you might want to ask about processes, policies, points of contact, services available, or anything else relevant to your child’s issues. 

Sixth, keep calm, cool and collected. The best approach to advocacy is building a team of people who want to help. When you keep your concerns simple to understand, you have solutions to offer, and you have a good attitude, people will be more inclined to take action and join your cause. 

Seventh, keep everything in writing. Any names, times, dates, questions, answers, requests, responses, and pertinent notes should be documented.  

Eighth, educate yourself. Does your child have an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) or a Section 504 Plan? If so, and there are issues to resolve, contact us to discuss your child’s situation. 

Advocating for your child is an on-going process. However, the process can be effective and have lasting positive effects on your child’s future. For additional information about Education Concierge’s services, simply contact us today.