Yikes! It’s School Time

As parents, we’re used to getting our kids organized for school. But, when you’re parenting a child who benefits from a specialized learning plan, including an Advanced Learning Plan (ALP), a 504 or an Individualized Learning Program (IEP), it is just as important that you stay organized.

Being prepared for conversations with school personnel and upcoming meetings will help the year to run smoother for both you and your child. Here are 7 steps that I suggest you take to prepare.

Step 1 – Gather all your paperwork in one place. Put it all in one binder and put your child's picture on the front. The following documents are recommended (if it applies):

  • Last 2 ALPs/504s/IEPs
  • Last 2 evaluations from the school
  • Last 2 evaluations from a private provider
  • Current Health Plan
  • Current Behavior Intervention Plan
  • Diagnosis letters
  • List of medications and supplements your child is currently taking
  • Past medications and your child’s reactions to these medications
  • Any state, school district or school standardized testing

Step 2 - Remind yourself of the challenges that your child faces every day. Every child, no matter where they are in terms of school success, has challenges they must tackle to be successful.

  • Jot down some examples of strengths and weaknesses that your child exhibited over the summer.
  • Read the previous year’s documents

Step 3 - Put the review date for the ALP/504/IEP on your calendar. All of these documents are reviewed each year to make sure that they are up to date. Make sure you ask for a copy of the draft ALP/504/IEP at least a week before the meeting gets scheduled.

Step 4 – Determine how you are going to keep track of your correspondence and interactions with the school. You could use a daily calendar or keep copies of emails. Remember: if it is not written down, it doesn’t exist.

Step 5 – Make sure that all the teachers are aware of the ALP/504/IEP and that they know their role in meeting the requirements of the contract. This includes:

  • ALP - the teacher’s role in challenging your child and helping the child meet their “affective learning goals.”
  • 504 - the teacher’s role in providing accommodations.
  • IEP - the teacher’s role in providing accommodations and helping the child meet their IEP goals.

Step 6 – Make sure that your child is aware of the ALP/504/IEP and that your child knows their role in meeting the requirements of the contract.

Step 7 – Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does my child’s Health Plan need to be updated?
  • Does my child’s Behavior Intervention Plan need to be updated?
  • Does the ALP/504/IEP reflect my child’s strengths and weaknesses?
  • With the current plan in place, will my child be farther behind even if all the goals are met?

If you answered YES to any of these questions, email the school and request an ALP/504/IEP meeting.


  • It’s ok to speak up and advocate on behalf of your child.
  • You can call a meeting to discuss the ALP/504/IEP whenever you feel it is necessary. Sometimes you need to call an official meeting and sometimes it can just be an informative meeting.
  • Call a meeting with the school before you get mad. If you see your child struggling or not being challenged, check in with school personnel to determine how to support your child.
  • Document all meetings.

Roxanne Bradley is a certified special education advocate and is president and founder of Learning Differences World. Her passion is supporting families as we work together to ensure that the school is meeting the needs of your children. As a former teacher, engineer and corporate manager -- and mother of two foster-adopt children-- Roxanne brings her unique experience to bear on every situation. Roxanne offers advice and support for parents in parent terminology. She is not a lawyer and cannot offer legal advice.

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