It’s Back to School and time to be thinking about education. Whether you’re considering preschool, your NICU graduate is in the classroom, or you’re sending big brothers and sisters back to school while your baby is still in the NICU, we guarantee you’ll find resources here to make the school day – and the school year – better! You will:
- Hear from other parents.
- Learn about useful resources.
- Get the information you need.
- Become a powerful advocate for your student!
Are we ready for school?
Transitioning from Early Intervention to Preschool Programs for Children with Disabilities (PPCD)
Many NICU graduates qualify for services from their state’s Early Intervention program. Once they turn three some children are eligible for the Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities, otherwise known as PPCD. If your little one has been receiving services through ECI they will almost always be referred for PPCD.
- Read What to Do if You Suspect Your Child Has a Learning Disability Part One: Birth to Age Three.
- Then Read What to Do if You Suspect Your Child Has a Learning Disability Part Two: Age Three and Up.
- Learn the Language and Key Terms to Know in Special Education.
How to Know If You Child is Ready for Kindergarten
As NICU parents we often worry whether or not our child is measuring up to their typically-developing peers. How do you know if your child is ready for the classroom? When you look at some of the things kindergarteners are expected to be able to do, it’s hard to imagine ANY 5 year old being able master these skills! It’s important to remember that every child has their own unique strengths and weaknesses. Instead of asking yourself if your child is ready for school, ask “Is the school ready for my child?” Whether or not a student can sit still through story time is less important than whether or not they have a teacher who is enthusiastic and a school that welcomes them.
- Read How Kids Learn in Preschool and What Kids Learn in Kindergarten from PBS.org.
- Find out more about Tips for Your Child’s Developmental Assessment from ZERO TO THREE: National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families.
- Learn about Building Your Child’s Listening, Talking, Reading, and Writing Skills: Kindergarten to Second Grade from American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).
- Know Eight Things Skilled Teachers Think, Say, and Do from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).
Most kids benefit from a little extra support at school. If you suspect your child has a learning delay or disability, ask for help. You can request a free comprehensive educational evaluation any time before or during the school year.
- Learn more about educational evaluations from LD Online, an indispensable resource for information on learning disabilities and ADHD.
- Download a free copy of Preschool Services Under IDEA from the National Center for Learning Disabilities. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the key federal education law that serves students with LD. Being informed will help you support your child’s learning needs and advocate for his or her success.
Hear from Other Families
- Your Preemie Is Starting Pre-School: 5 Things to Consider by Kathryn Whitaker
- Embracing Delays For Our School Bound Preemie by Joel Brens
- School? But My Child Is Only Three by Marty Barnes
What do we need to succeed?
You are the most important person in your child’s life – and their best advocate. Even if you feel a little nervous and unprepared for sending your child to school, remember that being a NICU parent has given you all the skills you’ll need for supporting your child. But you don’t have to do it alone!
There are people who can help. Think about all the people and providers who know your child and what they might need at school. This includes teachers, speech therapists, occupational therapists, special educators, and – if your child has medical needs that need to be met at school – the school nurse. They will be your team. All of you will work together to build a plan for school success.
- Read Advocating for Your Kids: How to Win Friends and Influence Providers.
- Learn about the people who can help develop your child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
- Discover How Teachers and Therapists Work Together to Facilitate Self Regulation from The Friendship Circle is a non profit organization with a mission to provide every child with special needs the support friendship and inclusion that they deserve.
- See a sample Individualized Health Plan and download the templates from the Montana Office of Public Instruction.
Whether or not your child has a Special Education IEP, a 504 Plan, or other accommodations at school, it’s a good idea for everyone who works with your child to understand what they need. If your child had an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) through Early Intervention this is a good place to start. Your IFSP can be the basis for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). As the school year progresses keep everyone aware of your child’s changing needs and be prepared to advocate if you think your child needs more support.
- Read Back-to-School: Tips for Parents of Children with Special Needs by Kandace Wernsing from LD Online.
- Download the IDEA Parent Guide from the National Center for Learning Disabilities. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the key federal education law that serves students with LD. Being informed will help you support your child’s learning needs and advocate for his or her success.
- Learn more about the available Supports, Modifications, and Accommodations for Students from the Center for Parent Information and Resources.
- Inform yourself about Understanding the Differences Between IDEA and Section 504 by the Council for Exceptional Children at LD Online.
No matter what your child needs, the key to school success is good communication between school and home. What happens in one environment affects the other. Set goals together. Let your team know what your goals and priorities are at home so that they can support them. Then ask what you can do to support their goals at school.
- Use this worksheet for outlining your concerns and communicating them to the school, a free download from the National Center for Learning Disabilities.
- Discover Three Easy Ways to Collaborate with Teachers by Nicole Allison, MA, CCC-SLP.
- Find more ways to develop a great relationship with your child’s teacher from the Friendship Circle.
- Learn strategies for Supporting Your Child at Home from LD Online.
- Find the best methods for Communicating with Your Child’s School Through Letter Writing from the Center for Parent Information and Resources.
Hear from Other Families
- Not Delayed Enough: Navigating School for the First Time by Keira Sorrells including her 8 Tips If Your Child is “Not Delayed Enough” To Qualify for Special Education Services
- The Spirit of Inclusion – Embracing Special Needs Kids in the Classroom by Jennifer VanBuren
- The Squeaky Wheel: The Tactics (and Pitfalls) of Advocating for Your Kids in School by Kim Pleticha
Erika Goyer is the mother of three boys and Education Director with Hand to Hold. Her oldest son Carrick Michael was born at 27 weeks gestation and weighed 1 pound, 14 ounces. Carrick died soon after his birth due to complications of prematurity. Erika went on to have two more high-risk pregnancies and two healthy sons.