Friday, March 19, 2010


Tomorrow is the first day of spring, and here in the Northeast the weather is a bit ahead of the calendar. The beginning of spring traditionally brings with it all sorts of tasks that transition us from the winter months -- spring cleaning, the spring holidays, readying our gardens for planting, and planning ahead for the summer or the next school year.

One task that should be on the list for most families is something we like to call "a check up from the neck up". As the school year is moving into its last few months, it's a good time to review what has gone well and what has been difficult this past year. If your child has an IEP, an Individual Educational Program under the IDEA, this is traditionally the time of year that your school district will be calling you in for an Annual Review. We will be featuring an extensive discussion of how to prepare for the Annual Review in our upcoming Yellin Center Newsletter. But the idea of a spring check up really should extend to all students.

The first part of such a check up is a conversation with your child about what he thinks has gone well or not so well this year. Was there a particular subject that he really enjoyed? This can be anything from reading to athletics, to music, to science. Are there ways you can build upon that interest during the summer months -- in a camp, or school program, or with family outings? Was there something that she found particularly difficult or just didn't enjoy? Maybe you can work over the summer to engage her in this subject or to at least build her skills.

A year-end conference with your child's teacher can be very helpful in seeing where things stand. Your child's teacher has had a number of months to get to know your child and to see how she has grown, academically and socially, over the course of the year. Does the teacher raise the same concerns as your child? If not, you may have to push these conversations a bit to see why your child, for example, says she hates math and doesn't understand it while her teacher doesn't see a major problem. Or, you might need to investigate why your child says nothing about having difficulty with reading while his teacher reports that he is really struggling. Of course, you will have had input from the teacher at other times during the year, and have had a chance to see several report cards. But summing up a school year may bring clarity to what has been going on in the classroom.

So, as you air out your closets and think ahead about summer, take some time to clear the air about your child's school performance this year and to think about ways to address any concerns as you plan your summer activities.

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