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Starting the School Year Right with Education Advocate Lisa Carey

Starting the School Year Right with Education Advocate Lisa Carey

Published: Jun. 8, 2023Updated: Jul. 12, 2023

On September 13, 2022, we asked Education Advocate Lisa Carey to give us all her tips for preparing for back-to-school season! Watch the full video above or check out the highlights in our article 4 Tips for Communicating with Your Child's Teacher.

Full event transcript of our event with Education Advocate Lisa Carey

Lindsay 00:08
Hey everybody, welcome back to Undivided live. We hope you had an incredible summer and that you're surviving this September heat. Lisa and I are so happy that you're here because we're excited to talk to you about all things back to school. So many of our kiddos have been back in class for a couple of weeks give or take, and things are starting to settle in, which means we can really start seeing what's working, what's in place, and what isn't. So what questions should we as parents be asking ourselves, our children, and their teams to ensure things are on track for this year? Because even the most perfect IEP is useless if it's not being followed. And our kids don't have time to waste, and let's face it, neither do we. So Lisa is going to share the most important questions that we need to start asking today so our kids can start the school year right. I'm Lindsay Crain and I head the content and community teams at Undivided. Today we welcome back Undivided education advocate, Lisa Carey. Lisa has advocated for hundreds of families during IEPs, including her own. She's also the mother of three boys with disabilities. Hey, Lisa, welcome back.

Hi, how are you? I know you said we're happy to be back from summer. So the good and the bad, right? We're here.

Lindsay 01:24
The good and the bad. We are literally and figuratively sweating our way through it. Right. We're getting through it.

Right? Exactly. Right we are.

Lindsay 01:33
And if you have any questions today, please know that our community manager Donna is there with us. So she's going to let Lisa and I know everything that you are putting in the chat window, just throw any questions that you have in there. And if you still have questions after our chat, or if you want one-to-one support, our Undivided navigators would love to help you kick off this school year with an action plan built around your priorities and your child's strengths and needs. So we're also releasing a new toolkit for this, like one-month check in for lack of a better term, so your child can start the school year right. It's going to be featured in our newsletter this Thursday. Anyone can access the toolkit, so share with whomever you think could benefit as soon as that lands in your inbox. And for our Undivided member families, we are uploading a curated checklist that organizes everything in that article, plus what we're discussing today and more, we're going to be uploading that directly into your Undivided app. So be on the lookout, all you have to do is click and your check-in prep is nearly done, you can walk through the rest of it with your Navigator. So please check out the link the data share in the chat about our Kickstart, and our care crew can tell you more about how our Navigators can support you exactly where you are.

And for right now, that is right here with us talking about school. So I think it's fair to say that for many of us last year might have been a bit of a hot mess between the return from distance learning and mass absences from COVID infections or vaccine mandates, not to mention gaping staff vacancies when educators moved out of district or decided that they had had enough and they walked away from education completely. So thankfully, we have higher hopes for this year. We are realists. But we're also optimists. So let's talk about how we can ensure that our child's IEP is being followed.

So Lisa, I thought we could start with accommodations, some of our kids might have three accommodations in their IEP and others might have 43. And so way, way too often kids are not getting the accommodations outlined in their IEPs, or they're not receiving them properly. I mean, many times it's just a lack of oversight or lack of clear communication amongst the team. And other times there are sadly teachers who act like accommodations are an unfair advantage. So they don't use them or they make the students so uncomfortable about it that the student doesn't self advocate. So what can parents do if their children can't properly access the environment around them?

So your question was mostly, was a big question, right. So focusing on the accommodations part of the question. It's important to keep in mind that usually when we have accommodations in an IEP, we're not expecting every teacher to use every one of them every day, right? So usually, accommodations are going to be situation specific, like in math, they're going to do something, or they're going to be based on the child's needs. Maybe a child has a need for movement breaks more on Monday than they did on Wednesday. So that makes it a little bit harder, right? Because if it's as needed, then how do you know what it was needed? So obviously, the easiest way to start is if your child's able to communicate, you could ask them and talk to them right? But I know that that doesn't work for all kids. Not all kids are able to communicate, so you can look at the clues, context clues I call them right, like, what's coming home? What kind of, if they're bringing home any schoolwork, or now that everything's on the computer, what is their grades look like on the computer and kind of keep an eye. If they're starting to do poorly, for example, in a class, they're typically really good at or they really enjoy, that might be a clue that they're not getting. Another one is you can, you know, I always advocate starting from a place of cooperation and collaboration. And so I would start with an email to the teacher, ask how the chat how it's going, maybe pick a couple of the accommodations that are most important, or at least that you think are the most helpful to your child, and ask, you know, if they've been working and helping the child focus in class, or if they've been helping the child with their sensory needs, or whatever the point of the accommodation is. And, you know, see how the teacher responds. But, you know, you want to make the tone of it very collaborative, you don't want the teacher to feel like you're coming at them in an accusatory way right off the bat. Does that make sense?

Lindsay 06:11
Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, we, we want to try to start the school year off, right. And, and like I said, I know, in my very, like long winded introduction to the question, because I have so much in my mind, but you know, a lot of the teachers there, they're not not doing it, because they don't want to, the communication, it's difficult at the beginning of the year, a lot of things are going on. But we also need to make sure that our kids are, you know, able to access what's happening. And so hopefully, that can start with a conversation, like you said, and also, which I know you talk about regularly, Lisa, we don't want to forget to ask about accommodations just beyond academic time. Right. I mean, you know, we need to think about PE, recess for the little ones, you know, specials all the way across the school day. Right? I don't know if there's anything else you want to add to that?

Yeah, no, I mean, absolutely. Any area that your child needs those accommodations, they should be getting them as appropriate, right. So like I said, you certainly don't need the child to be taking movement breaks if they actually don't need them. Maybe the child doesn't need them in the first part of the day, because they're still fresh, and they need them more in the afternoon. Right. And you can also ask about those social times. If your child has accommodations around social interactions or around group things or interactions with peers, you can ask the teacher in those communications if you know if that's happening at whatever lunch, recess, snack, whatever it is.

Lindsay 07:51
Absolutely. And also, when we you know, and I'll hit on the socialization in just a minute, a little more, but what you said about the phone call, right? Like the conversation, the email, and we want to start like that, but if teachers, if they are inconsistently providing these accommodations, if that isn't working, the casual email? Do we automatically, should we just call an IEP?

Um, honestly, it's gonna really depend on your relationship with the school, the teacher, the team. You might be able to just ask for a meeting, like a parent teacher conference type meeting, where you're just talking to the teacher, or whoever's involved in that accommodation. If that doesn't work, then you can ask for an IEP. But I always recommend you start you just start with a simple conversation. Hey, you know what, I have some concerns. Do you have time for a quick phone call? Or a Zoom? Or can I stop by after school one day and talk to you? Right?

Lindsay 08:51
And I mean, same, same question goes for modifications. I mean, what should we be? What should we be looking for and asking about for lessons, classwork, homework? How can we see what's going on when we're not there?

Yeah, right. You can't. But you can see what the child is bringing home, right? You can see what or what's on the computer, whatever you're able to see. And you should be able to, at back to school night, for example, or whatever your school does, they should share with you some information about their curriculum, right? So you should have some idea of, hopefully, what they're supposed to be doing in that grade. And then you can take a look at that modification and see, is it modified from, you know, does it make sense? If you're getting homework home that doesn't make sense, so let's just say that your child is reading at a kindergarten level and they're in eighth grade, okay? And they're getting something at home, read and answer the questions. And it's written not in kindergarten level, right? Or it's not an audio form or it's not whatever, then you know that that that modification is not being done, or accommodation, audio would actually be an accommodation, but changing the level of the writing would be modification.

And I know, I just wanted to add one thing is, I know that my response on just talk to the teacher, you know, is very Pollyanna, I realize, clearly, that doesn't always work, I realized that you're going to feel sometimes, like you're either not being heard, or they're not giving you a truthful answer. But there are a lot of great teachers out there that will. So I like to always start optimistic and give them the benefit of the doubt. Once that doesn't work, then we're gonna go, you know, then ask for an IEP and move on. But I wanted to be clear that I understand that, you know, if someone told me that with one particular team, I had, I would have rolled my eyes and said, that's, you know, that's not going to work. But we're always going to start at that place, especially when you have a new teacher in a year.

Lindsay 10:57
Right? And see how they respond. And if they're responding in the way it was a negative energy that you're feeling or whatever, then you have that response. Right. And you can always, you know, figure out how that factors into whatever you're going to do later. What about samples? Because I mean, I know there's some times where it's like, all the work is in the app, and it's not accessible, you know, or obviously accessible to a parent. So should we be asking for work samples throughout the year? Do we wait till a progress report comes? I mean, how do you approach that?

I think that absolutely. If you have concerns or questions, or you're just curious, right, what your kid is doing, it's absolutely appropriate to ask for some work samples be sent home. When my oldest was in elementary school, everything was on paper, so his backpack would come home, and it would be exploding with papers. I would open it and they would just be there. But I know that that's not true so much because everything's in a Google Drive. And if that's the case, you can also ask for your child’s, like, for example, LAUSD, they have a Google Drive, make sure you have your child's login and password. Go in their Google Drive and see what they're doing too, if applicable. That may not be applicable for kindergarten or first graders. But as they get older, that's definitely a good way to get a look. So ask the teacher, so the answer is ask the teacher, get access to the computer system your child's using, which hopefully you already have, but if you don't do that, and you said if progress reports, that's a good time to do it, too. When you get the progress reports, ask for some of those work samples. You can ask pretty much any time but progress reports feels like a real natural time to do it.

Lindsay 12:49
Right? And maybe not every day. And like we said, I don't think we can say it enough. Again, modification should be present in PE, APE, specials, art performances, presentations, field trips, independent work time, anything that's funded in or out of the classroom funded by your district and available to all students. You know, we just can't say it enough.

As long as it's in the IEP.

Lindsay 13:21
Right. Do you mean the modification? But I mean, even the modification, correct, I guess I was thinking beyond and making sure that your child has access to everything that's funded. We've had some bad experiences. So I was completely mixing that up. Yes. modifications. Yeah, but if somebody, people don't think like, we would have kind of like a traveling art teacher or something coming into a class, and then I realized, like, nothing was being modified at all so it was like appropriate or accessible for my daughter. So it's sort of keep all of those things in mind, like throughout the school day. Am I saying that right?

Well, yeah, and it generally, because I know there's going to be a parent out there who's going to disagree, but generally, I should say it gets harder, it gets harder as they get older. And what I mean by that is, it's pretty easy to include anyone for kindergarten. I know that your IEP teams are saying differently, but really, it's pretty easy at kindergarten because nobody knows none of the kids know what they're doing right? As they get older, it does get a little bit harder. And something that can help is when you do gain access to your older kid’s computer logins for school. You can see what assignments are coming up and you can reach out to the teacher and say, you know, what's the plan for modifying this assignment? So if there's an assignment coming up that’s, you know, read this book and write a three page whatever essay and put together a poster board presentation, right? And that's just not going to happen for your child. You can reach out and say so what's the plan? Are you going to provide an audio book? Is there a version of the book, there's an ability to make books a different version, a lower or an easier reading version that they can print out for you, or they can purchase it for many of the common books that are used. Maybe instead of an essay, they'll do just the poster board, you know, just throwing out ideas, but you can reach out to the teacher and say, oh, gosh, I see this really big assignment’s going to be due in the spring, what's the plan for my child?

Lindsay 15:30
Love it. For me, we need shirts. What's the plan? So what about services? Right? I mean, how can parents know who is working with their child and at the prescribed frequency and duration that's directed in the IEP?

So I love love, love communication logs. It's going to vary based on your student and what your child needs. Some examples is, it's kind of funny, because I said this to someone yesterday, and they were surprised. And I was like, well, actually, I'm doing this with my own son. But we have a daily piece of paper that they send home. And it reminds me of those logs that I got when my children were like in infant toddler programs, right, where they would put what time they ate and or diaper changes. It's kind of similar to that format. They tell me what things he did that day as far as like educationally. And then there's a little section where it tells me what he did with peers and, you know, a little section on some of his health needs. And it's just a little piece of paper. Honestly, my preference, though, is a shared Google Doc. That's something that some families have. Other families have had success with a binder or notebook that goes home and back and forth every day in the child's backpack, and you just go to the next page each day. So my point is that whatever is the correct communication log is what works for that team. Okay, so if you have a team, and they're just, we really like to do it on Google, and that will work for you, do it that way. So it's really going to be up to the team. And it's also going to be up to the level of needs, if you have a child who has dyslexia and, you know, dysgraphia, that communication log is going to need to contain different things. And if you have a child who might have Down syndrome or health problems or be in diapers or something like that, so you're going to have different needs of what's communicated.

Lindsay 17:33
Absolutely. And we I think we have a template link for that for a communication log. It can be personalized, like Lisa said, for whatever you need, and Donna is going to share that link in the chat window. So you can check that out. Again, like Lisa said, it can be made to fit whatever your child needs, and it can be completely personalized. I did want to ask, we actually, I was just gonna say I talked to one of our member parents yesterday. And she told me that her district tried to say that they couldn't have a communication log, and that it would be considered an additional service, which I guess I shouldn't be surprised. But what can parents do if they do get pushed back on this?

Great, when can the IEP be scheduled?

Lindsay 18:28
I like it.

Fantastic. We have 30 days to have the IEP, here's my request for the meeting. To have a meeting to add a communication log to the services is a lot. And hopefully the school will say at that point “You know what, let's just add it. Do you still need a meeting?” Nope. Withdraw request if everything else is okay, right. Um, but yeah, if they say that it's a service. I think that also parents, and this is a skill, I mean, I'm going to tell you guys, honestly, my oldest with an IEP is going to be 20 in May, so he’s 19. My middle is 15. My youngest is 9. And I am just now figuring out this as a parent, right? And if you come at anyone, but specifically teachers, making them feel like you're looking over their shoulder, you're questioning them, you're babysitting them, it's not going to go really well. So make sure that you're going to get what your child needs is the goal, right? So you're going to come at them from I really want to make sure that I'm supporting his ELA at home his English language, I want to make sure that we're using if it's a child who might have some some behaviors that they're working on at school, I want to make sure that we're using the same language at home and at school, right? Oh, you're saying “first, then” I'm going to use that at home too, because it'll help the school, right. So if you come at it from a place of collaboration, like I want the communication log so I can continue you at home what you're doing at school and I can support my child, right? Teachers are going to be much more open to it. One other thing on the communication logs, if you get pushback, if your child has a 1:1 aide or even a 2:1 aide, a suggestion that you can make to the school is letting the aide fill it out and then having the teacher sign off on it before you see it as the parent. Right. And that can take a little bit off the load of the teacher, if you're getting a lot of pushback.

Lindsay 20:30
Yeah, I know a lot of parents who have used the communication log exactly like that. So that's, yeah, whatever you can make work. It's important, right? And then you don't have to ask them every day to see, which we don't recommend, asking them every day to see work samples and what's going on. It really does take some of that off too as long as there is some kind of fluid communication.

It's just so important. I mean, it represents, it's just so important how you ask the question of the school, of the teacher, right? You don't want to make them feel like you're asking because you're going to want to babysit them, like I said, right, because you're doubting their abilities as a teacher. You're asking because you want to make sure you can support your child and support the teacher. Right? By facilitating at home, whatever.

Lindsay 21:28
Exactly. Yeah. 100%. Another really important part of collaboration, which, you know, we really can't stress enough, right? We're trying to start this year out positive. But you know, whether that's a team meeting or a check-in or team training, because I think a lot of people think, oh, maybe the team was trained last year, or maybe their child is in a class with, you know, one teacher and then some specials, right? But there could be a new team member this year, or maybe there was an entirely new team, and some of our kids come with a long list of instructions, whether it's equipment, modifications, communication, medical safety protocols, behavior plans, you know, excetera. So what do parents need to know, I mean, is it too late? If they didn't ask for a team meeting last year on their IEP, can they call one if they feel like that's needed? Either team meeting or team training?

Yeah, absolutely. You can request it. Now, I would, before you ask, just sort of jot down for yourself what it is you're asking for a training on because sometimes parents are kind of unclear and say, Are you going to train the staff? Well, our staff, our teachers are trained, they know how to teach, right. So be specific what it is you're looking for, if there is medical or safety concerns, and that would be my personal priority. If there is a seizure protocol, if there is a G tube, a trach, anything like that, absolutely right away, make sure that every member of the team has the training. And to that end, just to go a little off on a tangent, if you have those types of things in your IEP, you always want to make sure training’s included. And it shouldn't be training at the beginning of the year, it should be training anytime there is a new staff member working with the child. Because you guys know, the aide at the beginning of the year is not typically the same as the aide at the end of the year. Right. So just a little tangent there. But you can definitely ask them to do, you know, to do the trainings, and you can ask that if you can participate or sit in on the training as the parent, and schools might push back because they're not used to the request, right. But it's not a request that is that far out there because you're an equal member of the team. And if you guys are talking about, for example, a behavior plan, it doesn't help the school if you do something different at home, right? Everybody has to be on the same page.

Lindsay 23:59
Yeah, and using to whatever degree, you know, possible the same, I mean, strategies, even language, or just hearing what has worked from the team, whether that is vision, behavior, you know, hearing, I mean, you know, if you think about if your child has one or several different providers that are really in there supporting, then again, it's really about supporting teachers, so they can know the most about your child and not be surprised, right? And they also know who to go through for support, and they can ask those questions and not not worry that they're bothering somebody or who do I go to?


Lindsay 24:41
I mean, I know, you know, which also leads us to, you know, classroom time socialization, which you kind of touched on, and what are some questions that we need to be asking to gauge if our kids are interacting with their peers, which is as important, you know, to many of us is as important as whatever they're learning in class and might be, you know, as challenging or more challenging for for some kids.

Yeah, this is one of those things that gets harder as they get older, also, socialization. The younger the kids are, the less likely they are to notice differences, right? So you can ask questions of the team, or you know, the teacher, who do they eat lunch with? Right? Are they eating lunch by themselves? Who do they eat lunch with? If your child is a child that spends part of their day in one classroom and part of their day in another classroom, like they might have art and PE in Gen Ed and math and English in a special day class, it becomes a little bit harder because the child is part of two communities part time instead of one community full time, right? So asking the questions, you know, at PE is the child being paired up when the other kids are paired up? Who are they being paired up with? One thing that I have found really helpful is asking the teacher if there's anybody in the classroom that your child seems to have a connection with. Is there somebody that your child gravitates towards, and that child gravitates towards your child, that friend, and asking that teacher to please reach out to that other child's parent, and give them your email or whatnot. So you can try and get them together after school. Now, obviously, that scenario is for children that aren't able to communicate and say, “Today I played with Sally,” right? Ask the teacher to be that legwork to reach out to that other parent for you. And hopefully, the parent can reach out to you. But asking those questions, who do they sit with at lunch and ask how is that going? Right? Is there you know, is the child sitting during free time, whatever free time that is? Is your child off by themselves? Or are they included? And if they're not being included, what can the school do to help facilitate that inclusion?

Lindsay 27:03
Right. And then another another thing that I've found that I didn't realize, you know, when my daughter was younger, but if they are in a special ed classroom, to ask if they are having lunch and doing specials, and in PE with same aged peers, because you might assume that your first graders with other first graders, they could be with fifth graders. So you know, it's important to know, who are they with during that socializing time when they're outside of the classmates in their own class? You know, who are they with? And then, you know, depending on the answer, it might take some more conversations, right to figure out what's right. I know, I've been surprised in the past because I had assumed that it would always be same-age peers. So something else to keep in mind.

Well, especially our children that are in special education classrooms, oftentimes, they're not always with same-age peers. Oftentimes, you'll have mixed-grade classrooms for some of the day or part of the day.

Lindsay 28:06
Yeah, yeah. So ask the questions so you can really understand what that looks like and figure out, like, if everything's great, or do you need to maybe dig in a little more. And I hate to even ask the second part of the socialization questions, but what about, what about some of our kids if they're getting bullied? What can we do?

Um, I hate this question because I hate that it happens, not that you asked it. But there's a few points about bullying. First off, if your child is being bullied, they're not safe. Period. You know, even if you believe they're physically safe, they're not emotionally safe. And you have to figure out how to get a stop to it immediately. So there's a few steps that I would do. I'd first call for an IEP meeting. There is actually no such thing as an emergency IEP meeting; the school has 30 days to hold the meeting no matter what. But I would ask the school to move up the meeting if at all possible. Because you don't want to wait. Another thing that you can do is ask for a meeting with the vice principal and the teacher or the assistant principal, I guess we call it now, and the teacher, you know, just a parent teacher conference, not an IEP, to talk about it. And I would be looking for immediate reaction. I want immediate change. I don't want “we're going to investigate and get back to you in a few weeks.” You know, if they want to go investigate and get back to me tomorrow, okay, that's reasonable, right? But I don't want to wait for whatever they're going to do. I want to know that that child that is making my child feel unsafe, and note how I said that. I didn't say the child that's bullying my child. I said the child is making my child feel unsafe. The reason I phrase it that way is because you can only focus on your kid and you can't control what's going on with the other kid. You can only control what's going on with your kid. So the goal is to get your kid away from the other kid. And then there is a letter, I never can say the letter right, the name of the letter. Gebser. And I think that we're gonna have an article coming out soon about that, but this is a letter that basically puts the school on notice that there is a bullying incident going on. And when a child is being bullied and the child who's being bullied has an IEP, the school has an elevated responsibility to protect the child with the IEP. So this letter puts the school on notice that it's happening because we don't want the school to say they didn't know it was happening down the road when you're trying to get it fixed. So it's an important letter to, you know, formally give notice that you have these concerns. And I would not be patient. You know, I tell a lot of my parents “give the school a few days, be patient,” I would not be patient. Your child, if they're being bullied is not safe, the school needs to come up with an immediate plan to keep your child safe the very next day, right. I'm presuming this meeting is after school, they need a plan by the next morning of who is going to make sure your child is safe.

Lindsay 31:35
Yeah, I have a friend who's had to keep her son out of school for two weeks because their plan for, you know, the bullying that her son had been at the receiving end of last year and then started this year, nothing was in place. And then it's like, okay, we can meet next week. She's like, well, it's not, you know, we don't feel safe sending him to school. And I'm not recommending that as every situation is different, but they did absolutely didn't feel safe and it wasn't being handled in the way it should, and they've now had to, it has to be it's a much bigger deal now than it should have been because of you know, wasn't proper reaction from the district. And like Lisa said, we are working on an article about bullying, we want to do an event on that as well because you know, sadly that is a part of life. So if there's anything that you want to know or that you've encountered, you know, please reach out you know, you can reach out in our Facebook and ask questions, let us know what you want to hear about because that we're diving into that, like Lisa said right now. And as you said, Lisa bullying is really part of the safety concern and you've touched, you know, there there are two other things that kind of came to mind just immediately when you were talking about safety, and that's health plans and aides, which can sometimes, you know, be a safety issue as well depending on, you know, the reasons that the child has those, so those are two huge areas that again, we immediately need to be checking in on what the parents need to know about each of those. Like first checking in, like for health plan, making sure that's in place.

Lisa, are you there? I don't know if I'm frozen or if Lisa’s frozen. Hello, Lisa. Donna, let me know in the chat if you can hear me. I don't know if I'm frozen or if Lisa’s frozen. The joys of streaming. Anyone? Let's see, one more. You're good, Lindsay, Lisa's frozen. Alright, so hopefully Donna if you can reach out to Lisa just have her I'm sure she is, oh, she just dropped off. All right. So um, it's nice that I've been talking to myself. So we're going to wait for Lisa to come back. She should be back in just a minute. We were talking about the health plans and the aides. You know, I'll share while we're waiting for Lisa to get back on about health plans. My daughter has a health plan. So you know, make sure that you call the nurse if there's something that every teacher needs to know, like an emergency or a seizure plan, for example. Do they have copies of that seizure plan in their classrooms? Hey, Lisa, I was like Donna, let me know am I frozen? Is Lisa frozen, am I talking to myself? So I am, I’ve just been talking to myself, but I don't know when I lost you, but I was I was asking about like health plans and aides, so I was just sharing how

My daughter has a health plan. We checked in with the nurse. She has a seizure plan, so we made sure that every teacher had the plan up in their classroom, so it tells them exactly what to do, who to call so there's no hesitation. And I don't know if there's anything else you want to add about health plans or aides.

Yeah, I do, actually. So I was talking with some very knowledgeable people about health plans the other day, and there was a little bit of confusion. So to clear up the confusion, right. A health plan, for most districts, okay, so different districts do it differently, but it's really a section in the IEP, that says what you do when something happens. So it might be where the nurse, it's often the nurse section, where the nurse wrote, you know, staff to be trained in how to administer an epi pen, what to do if there's a seizure, what to do if a G tube’s pulled out, whatever. And that is the health plan, right, and I talk about that because for a lot of districts, it's just kind of buried in the areas of need, or the present level area of needs section. And you want to make sure that that's brought to the attention of everyone working with the child because a lot of times, most of the time, you can't predict those events, when is the child going to need the epi pen, you can't predict that's only going to happen when the child is in the classroom and the speech therapist will never need it. Right? So that's something that if you do an All About Me document or have an IEP summary that you present to your team, like at the beginning of the year, that's definitely something you want to highlight and include.

Lindsay 36:38
And I don't know if you want to say anything about aides, and then I want to do to touch on emergency IEPs, which is something else that we're working on an article, but is there anything else that you want to say about emergency plans, which some people don't really know what that means? It might be good for you to highlight.

So you said emergency IEP, you meant…?

Lindsay 36:58
Emergency plan in the IEP!

So an emergency plan is something that, so an IEP is really a document, right, that is individualized. So just because there's not a section in the document to put something doesn't mean that it shouldn't be in there. So most teams are willing to put together an emergency plan, which can be just a paragraph that you attach somewhere in the IEP in the notes or an attachment that says what will happen for your child if there is an emergency. So a fire. If your child has mobility issues, and they're attending school on the second floor, and the building catches fire, who's going to take your child out? Because that teacher, if that child's in Gen Ed, or they could potentially have in high school, 30 to 40 kids in the room, and the teacher’s got to get all those kids out. So whose job is it to physically pick up your child and carry them downstairs? If your child has issues with with sounds, it can include things about how to manage drills, for example, maybe putting the child's headphones on his desk and warning him beforehand, we're about to have a fire drill, if you need your headphones, here they are, because part of keeping your child safe is teaching them to what to do right in there.

And another reason, I know this is so scary, we don't want to talk about this, but another reason I'm a big proponent of having an emergency plan is because for whatever reason, the way people's brains work, we don't break rules that are ingrained in us for a long time. So for example, they have found that when there's a shooting in a public place, people typically don't go through the doors that say employees only, okay, because it’s just not something they've ever done. They go to the customer doors, right. And so they say the way to combat that is think about it in advance, if something happens, it's okay to go through the door marked employees only. Think about that. And so to that end, I put in my kids’ emergency plans that if there is an emergency, the school has my unconditional permission to physically pick up my child and move them. So if there's, God forbid, an active shooter, my kid is probably not going to run inside like everybody else, he's probably going to lay down on the ground. And so I put directly in the emergency plan that I want you to pick them up and carry them, which seems like common sense, but I'm hoping to remove that half a second or one second delay of the adult who's like, wait, are we allowed to do this? You know, even though it doesn't seem like that's what would happen. That's what we're told by, you know, studies that I've at least that I've read and it's not my field, but that's something else that I included an emergency plan.

Lindsay 39:51
That's great. And like I said, I think this is something a lot of people don't want to think about, they haven't, it's not brought up regularly in IEP meetings. So we are working on something to give all of you, you know, really a list of like considerations that you can discuss during your meeting, also to talk to your team about the school's emergency IEP plan and making sure that it's accessible for your child. And, you know, hopefully all children.

But I also wanted to mention something that we wrote about, we got several questions about this, asking that we talk about it. And this is some new guidance that we got from the state. We wrote about this a few weeks ago, and it's definitely something that parents, especially with older kids, but really all of us need to discuss with your districts right away, and that is the announcement that California will finally have a pathway to a diploma for all students, with some caveats, right. But the first major change specifically targets options for those who take the alternate assessment. And so Lisa, I would love if you could first summarize, you know, the new guidelines around that, and let me know, because this is all new, and things are still being figured out. So let me know, you know, if you want me to jump in as well, but just really kind of two big things. And the first one, you know, is that students taking that alternate assessment can now earn not an alternate diploma but a real diploma.

So, I'm going to do your job, Lindsay, and say that Donna will put the link in the chat to the article. And the reason I'm doing that is when I work with families I'm always very honest, if I don't know something, I don't pretend. So this is new, I don't know a lot about it. It is on my list of things to learn about, I can tell you what I do know. And it's that the state has come out with a new pathway. Right. And I looked it up this morning, and it's under a provision of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which is interesting, it's a federal law. And it's going to allow students with disabilities to earn a diploma if they can meet the alternative standards that are set by California. So many high schools only work on A through G requirements, which are what you need to go to directly from high school to university. Many schools also have the A through G and what they call the basic classes. And when I'm talking about basic, I'm talking about general education, some districts use basic in special ed, I'm talking about general education right now. And if you get a diploma under that basic classes, you aren't going to be able to apply directly to university, but it is an actual diploma and you can go to community college and then to university. Okay, so my understanding is that they have come up with these alternative achievement standards, which are for the most significantly disabled kids, those that would be taking the already if they take standardized tests, they're already taking the alternative standardized tests. And, you know, I'm looking now at our own article, right, to remind me, but the minimum state requirements are three years of English, two years of math, no algebra required, and so on. So it's a different standard that's required to get the diploma. I hope that helped.

Lindsay 43:32
Yeah, well, and yeah, and I think it's some of the some of the things that are definitely that our state defined is that, you know, that students are progressing on standards-based goals, right learning that standards based curriculum, they're aligned with state requirements for the regular diploma, and they can be obtained within the time period where a student reaches, you know, that when they are 22, so a student can still earn so if your student is never if your child has never had standards-based goals, and you're worried they're in high school, I mean, if they're, if they're staying till 22, they can still work on those goals that they end and get those required credits that Lisa was talking about. But again, if that's what were you gonna say, Lisa, tell me if I'm saying it wrong.

No, no, you're you're right. You're right. But when you said that, because this is new to me, it's new to everybody. Right? It made me think of something else. And that's, you know, sometimes we have kids who can get a regular diploma, right, but due to their learning disabilities, they need a longer time. So they're not going to get it by 18. But they could get it by 20. They could get it by 21. Right? Because the school has to provide those services until they get the diploma or until they age out at 22. So what that made me think about is right now, most districts actually don't really have a program to continue working on academics from 18 to 22, or from after 12th grade to 22. Most of those programs are life skills programs, they're not continuing to work on their courses towards graduation. Does that mean that your kid can't use that time? No. But you could be in a due process kind of situation where your kid needs to go somewhere else, right. And so I imagine with this new guidance, or at least I'm going to hope, that they are coming up with new programs that will continue the academics for both of those groups of kids, the group of kids that needs the alternative, and the group of kids that is still working towards the regular diploma but just need extra time.

Lindsay 45:47
Well, first of all, that's really interesting, I'll get kind of what we covered in the article when I talked to someone in Sacramento, what we can do right now, I'll get to that in a second. But actually that's a great additional bucket of advocacy that we need to be talking to our districts about. So how does that change what that transition program looks like how it fits in with this. And then that also ties into the second big change for this new pathway to diplomas, which you had hit on before, where there are state requirements for graduation and then there's local district. Right, your local districts can have something above and beyond that state guidance. So there's the state guidance. And then, like you said, the A to G requirements. A lot of local districts also require that for graduation, but this opens the door so IEP teams can discuss if the child's disability gets in the way of them being able to complete those A to G, they can still graduate, as long as they meet those state requirements. And these are students who do not qualify for the alternate assessment, that's, you know, the majority of students on IEPs do not. And so this is another pathway for them. If maybe Algebra Two is something that there's no way that they would be able to, you know, complete and still get that diploma. So I don't know if there's anything else you wanted to say about that?

Well, I just want to add that I think a lot of this is going to be wait and see and what the districts do, because the districts are going to, I would think, they should come up with some additional programming for that, you know, 18 to 22 transition program, we're just going to have to see what happens.

Lindsay 47:31
Absolutely. And you know, and I know for some of you even hearing this, it might be intimidating to think of aligning your child's goals to those state standards, whether that's until they're 18, or even after, but it is possible, Donna’s going to share our article on strength based goals. And I think she probably shared or will be sharing the article on core connectors, so check those out. And really start thinking about how you can talk with your IEP team about your child's future and your vision for that future. And also on the advocacy, what Lisa was talking about, this extra bucket of what that transition program looks like, awesome. Also, and this is in the article, but your district needs to define exactly what meeting the California alternate achievement standards looks like in your district. So your child's progress towards meeting your district's defined standards also should be the topic of, you know, in every IEP meeting, if that's something that you're going for. So that's something different. And despite your child's placement, whether they're in Gen Ed, or they're in a special ed classroom, they need to be working on standards-based goals and curriculum to earn this diploma. So if you are involved with advocacy, or if you're not, it's a great time to start, or just talk to your IEP team, but your district needs to define what that looks like. And you want to make sure that all of your questions are answered. And so that's being defined in a way that feels, you know, appropriate and on target. I don't know Lisa, is there anything else you wanted to add to that?

I can say you know more to come, right. So as we learn more about this law, and how more specifically the districts are going to implement it, there's going to be more to come.

Lindsay 49:16
And hopefully we can get some guidance from the CDE on that as well. We'll definitely be following up 100%. So if you are starting to talk to your districts, we would love to hear from you, like let us know how we're going, but it's going to be something that we're following very closely. And also when I mentioned sort of vision for the future, I know for some people it's like, you know, because let's be honest, any vision of the future can be very difficult to picture because there's so much for us to keep straight in the day to day. It can be intimidating, overwhelming, frustrating and just too much. So Lisa, how can busy parents keep track of goals, services, questions, priorities, concerns, progress, everything else that we need, everything we talked about today and beyond, you know, just to get our kids through the school year with fidelity, what can we do?

Yeah. So, I have a two part answer. So if you are a Undivided member, your Navigator can put together an IEP summary for you. And this is a two-page PDF or printout, you can actually use as a cheat sheet or give to the teachers. And it'll have the goals, the services, accommodations or modifications, all of the main points. If you don't have an Undivided Navigator, you can create one yourself, just take your giant document and pull out of it the key parts like the services, the goals, accommodations, modifications, supports, etc., and put it in one or two pages.

Lindsay 50:46
We have a template! We have a template, Donna, share that template.

And that can be a, you know, a cheat sheet to use throughout the year, right? What are the goals? It's right there on one page, instead of flipping through a 50-page document to find each individual goal. And I find as a mom, and as an advocate, I mean, I'm going to be honest with you, as an advocate, when I have a client, I will go and use the end of IEP summary in the meetings because it's a cheat sheet. But even as a mom, it's really helpful when providers ask, you know, how much speech is your child getting at school for? I never remember, maybe other people do. I don't. So I really love the summary. So either get one made for you or make one yourself. It's really helpful.

Lindsay 51:39
And it's not too late. Just because we've already started school, it's not too late.

And teachers love it. So they really do because it's helpful. It's in one place. And like I said, they don't have to flip through a giant document to find information.

Lindsay 52:02
And I've heard, I mean, every year, I'm sure you hear from clients, and I hear from families like, and I've heard myself like, Oh, I've never received anything like this. Thank you, right. I mean, it makes it easier for them. So it also gets, you know, allows them to start to get to know your child. So, yeah, but I'm looking at the time. And you know, I know, I mean, I could ask you questions all day, Lisa, thank you so much. You know, both Lisa and I, we know, I mean, this all seems like a lot. Many of us are buried in trying to make sure things are semi right. You know, both for our kids and for district initiatives. It is tiring. So thank you, Lisa, for highlighting some areas where we can focus the beginning of this year. And all of you feeling overwhelmed, we are with you. I wish it didn't have to be this hard. And again, believe me at least, and I can relate. And we want to support you wherever you are. So please give us a call and let us know where you're stuck. So let's figure out how we can move you forward and how we can move forward together. Our mission is to support you so your children can thrive. And we want you to thrive too.

And community is a great way to do that. So if you're not already a member of our Facebook group, please come join us. Lisa and I are both in there. This week, we are talking about all kinds of fun things. Donna is going to put that chat or that link in the chat window for our Facebook group. And maybe she can also share our Instagram. Chat, come check us out, you know, in whatever way that you're, you know, hanging out, you know, late at night trying to clear your brain. We also love bringing experts like Lisa to you. Our Undivided member families have access to bi-weekly office hours with specialists. So you can show up for five minutes and ask a question or you can stay for the whole hour. Lisa, you've done two or three office hours this school year so far?

Oh, this school year, I think I've done two this school year.

Lindsay 53:51
Yep. And more to come on that for sure. I know our members love the ability to ask direct questions, you know, to be able to go in and ask Lisa. So maybe they need to do that and pop out or they stay, they learn from others. So we wanted to give our Facebook group members a chance to do the same. So Lisa is going to be back. She's going to be in our Facebook group this Thursday from 12:30 to 1, she's going to be doing a mini office hours for 30 minutes. And any member of our Facebook group can fire away questions for her. And we're going to get to as many as we can in 30 minutes. So Donna just put the Facebook group link in the chat. But let us know if you need it again. We're not going to be streaming from this page on Thursday. Just to reiterate, we're gonna be streaming from the group. So it's private for anyone in our group, which is open to any parent raising a child with disabilities. So join us by Thursday, and you can talk to Lisa. And we also love sitting down with professionals and digging a little deeper like we did today. This year, we're not going to be hosting live every week on the same day and time like we did last year, but we want to bring you specialists whenever we can, you know whether it be an hour or 15 minutes, so keep an eye out for our lives and we'll keep you informed through our newsletter and all of our socials sites.

Our next live event we'll be bringing you another Unite and Conquer where parents come together with professionals to talk about their journey, what's worked and what hasn't. So we want to share their story. They want to share their stories to help all the parents coming after them. And we're so excited that under Undivided member parent Ruth has agreed to come on with her Undivided Navigator and education advocate Will. Ruth has a four year old with an IEP and she learned many lessons during her first year of IEP meetings. Maybe you can relate to that. And although every child, family, and district is unique, there are many overlapping experiences as I'm sure you've come to learn, and you don't have to rewrite the book yourself. So come hang out with me, Ruth, and Will on September 23, at 1:30 here on our Facebook page. Donna is going to put the RSVP link in the chat. Send us your questions ahead of time so we know what you want to hear. We would love to see you there. And thanks again to Lisa for sending us off with a mission. We hope you'll join us Thursday so you can ask her all of your own questions. Thanks to Donna in the chat and especially thank you to you for stopping by Undivided Live. We know how busy your lives are. So let us know how it goes with your school teams. We are on this journey together and we're here for you. So have a beautiful week. We will see you soon. Bye.



Full event transcript of our event with Education Advocate Lisa Carey

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