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PCS Prep & Your Child’s IEP

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PCSing is stressful. Even when you do all the things, it still ends up being stressful. Plans change, assignments change, babies get sick, anything can happen during PCS season! This stress is only heightened by the mental drain and worry of if/how your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 plan will roll over to a new school, yet again. Although it won’t solve all challenges, preparing your child’s IEP to transition to a new school will help. I know how stressful PCSing is and as a special education teacher, I hope the following steps can ease your PCS prep. 

First, you will want to have the most up-to-date information when you leave one school. It is your right as a parent to request an IEP review at any time. Start off by communicating with the new school and IEP team as soon as possible. This will create a foundation for a strong, collaborative relationship. And most importantly, if you have questions or concerns, ask! You are the expert when it comes to your child.

As soon as you know your PCS date, be prepared to do the following PCS prep: 

  1. Request an IEP review with your child’s current school and update their IEP as necessary.
  2. Make a digital and hard copy of your child’s IEP and school file, including:
    1. IEP and evaluations
    2. Timeline of your child’s progress and IEP 
    3. Artifacts from your child’s schooling such as work samples, behavior data, communication with teachers, etc.
      Check out this resource: Special Education Binder
  3. Contact the new school
    1. Contact principal and/or school special ed director via email (if you call on the phone don’t forget to follow up the call with an email to summarize the call so you get things in writing)
    2. FIND OUT: where to send IEP & child’s file
    3. Provide date of expected enrollment
    4. Request contact information for follow up details and questions
    5. Initiate communication with school personnel; when contact info is provided, use it! 
    6. If your receiving state participates in advanced enrollment, begin the enrollment process! Not sure: check your state: HERE!
  4. Upon PCSing, visit the school, informally and formally
    1. Ensure IEP and file have been received and reviewed
    2. Set up preliminary meeting if desired
    3. Inquire about IEP processes and updates 

(The new school is required to rewrite/format the IEP in accordance with district policies.)

close up of boxes
PCS Prep for families with children in special ed is more than moving boxes.

PCS Prep with an IEP

Update Their Current IEP

If your child’s IEP review was held in the fall, it would be advantageous to request another IEP before PCSing, especially if your child has experienced a lot of growth within that time or things have changed. If your child’s IEP is held in the spring and nothing drastic has changed, touch base with your child’s teacher to see if anything needs to be updated. Oftentimes, you probably know a PCS is coming even in January or February. If you have an IEP meeting in early spring, use that meeting to develop a detailed IEP that can transfer to the new school. Document anything that has worked well for your child or that definitely did not work. Anything that helps your child function throughout the day can and should be added as an attachment to the IEP if it doesn’t fit in another section. 

Make Copies of Their IEP

Make a digital and hard copy of your child’s IEP and school file. Add what is important to your child’s file. Consider using a timeline approach if you can. As a parent, you can add anything to your child’s file which will transfer to the new school. You could add work samples, observatory data, email communication with the IEP team, etc. If your IEP team has established practices that work for your child, document these with dates and outcomes. This will help guide the new team with less trial and error for your child. 

Communicate with the New School

The sooner the new IEP team can review your child’s IEP, the sooner they can determine the best way to serve your child. Each school district implements special education services differently, so there is potential your child’s school experience will look different than it did previously. Having your child’s IEP sooner rather than later will help the school decide the best way to implement the IEP until they have a chance to review and rewrite it using their district paperwork. Any information is better than no information especially when it comes to children who have higher needs. Additionally, don’t be afraid to start communicating with your child’s teacher. Starting off with strong communication can really help in creating a positive, collaborative and trusting relationship between you and the teacher which is the best outcome for your child. 

Visit the School

Moving from state to state or country to country poses additional challenges for special education families. As mentioned previously, every state does things differently when it comes to special education, but they all must follow the law (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). If you have questions, if something seems off, ask your new IEP team (or Partners in PROMISE)! You are now a member of that team, so speak up when things don’t make sense. If things are done differently than at the previous school, keep in mind that the team does have to abide by the procedures and systems put in place in their state/district, while following federal law. To best meet your child’s needs, the team may require some time and creative brainstorming of which you are an integral part. Keep communication open and continue to be mindful of your child’s rights and wellbeing. 

In addition, sometimes a strategy or intervention might not have worked in one setting, but the same approach may work at a different time for your student. Don’t be too quick to push back against a new team’s attempts, but do communicate if something has been tried and not worked, as well as what has worked in the past. 

Try these conversation starters when you have questions or are feeling uneasy about your child’s new setting. They will help you gain answers as you establish an open trusting relationship with the IEP team. 

  • Can you please explain what that will look like?
  • Could you elaborate on that more? 
  • What will my child’s day look like? Can you please walk me through her schedule? 
  • I would like to come observe my child’s classroom or experience at school. How can we make that happen? 
  • In the past ______________ was an effective strategy, how can we work together to provide something similar?  (It helps to provide your data and can be what you documented in the last IEP or emails with teachers.) 

Although it won’t solve all the challenges of PCSing, knowing your child’s IEP is up-to-date and ready for a transition to a new school will help. Research shows that your input and collaboration are immeasurable to the success of your child now and in the future. The new team will be grateful for your preparation, communication and ready to welcome your child to their school.

About the Author

Jessica is a special education teacher turned military wife and stay-at-home mom as her little ones grow. She holds a Masters’s degree in Special Education and has completed the Master IEP Coach® Mentorship Program. She provides special education coaching and consulting services for families with IEPs, 504s, or those in the evaluation process. She supports parents in becoming the greatest advocate for their child by building collaborative relationships, providing education on strategies for success at school and home, and assisting in transitions. She especially enjoys walking with fellow military families through their child’s educational journey as she fully understands the extra challenges. 

Connect with Jessica: successfulhealthychildren.org/special-education-coaching/

Email: jlmonteverde@successfulhealthychildren.org

Facebook/Instagram at: jmonteverde.iepcoach

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