NY Stay in School

The transition from elementary school to middle school is traumatic for many students and their families (Wells, 1989). By only eighth grade, 20% of all students with disabilities and 40% of Hispanic students with disabilities have dropped out (Williams Bost, 2004). Below are some tips for parents of middle school students with disabilities:
• Let your child know that you value education as important to his/her future.
• Set aside time every day for homework, even if your child doesn’t have any.
• Make sure that your child completes his/her homework. Find out if your school district has a “homework hotline” students can call for help when studying at home.
• Limit the amount of time your child watches television and plays video games to no more than one or two hours each day.
• Talk to your child about school problems and achievements every day.
• Help your child use problem-solving skills in difficult situations at home and at school. Praise good behavior.
• Know your child’s friends and their families.
• Let teachers know that you want to be contacted immediately if your child has problems with homework or behavior.
• If your child is struggling, seek help. Parents and other adults can reduce the likelihood of dropout if they take steps to help youth cope with their problems.
When There’s a Problem
If your child is not doing well or is beginning to have behavioral problems in school:
• In some cases, a tutor can help a student who has fallen behind or who has missed important earlier concepts.
• Sometimes, a child’s personality may clash with that of the teacher or another student. Meet directly with the teacher to determine if there is a problem or if there has been a misunderstanding. In some cases, it may benefit everyone if you request that your child be transferred to a different classroom.
• Monitor your child’s attendance and school performance. Periodically check in with your child’s teachers to find out how things are going.
• Concentrate on your child’s goals. Instead of focusing on why he/she is unsuccessful in school, have your child identify his/her future goals; develop a list of school, home, and personal barriers to reaching those goals; and devise strategies to address the barriers.
• If you think your child may have a problem with drugs or alcohol, contact the school psychologist, social worker, or counselor, help line, or organization for information and advice.
• Consider alternative school settings. If you, your child, and the IEP team conclude that the IEP goals cannot be reached in the current school environment, ask for help identifying appropriate alternative settings. Options include magnet schools, alternative schools, charter schools, work-based learning programs, career academies, and general educational development (GED) programs. Include your child in all discussions with school personnel and the IEP team.
• If you child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) Discuss your concerns with your child’s team. Request a functional behavior assessment—a process for determining why problem behaviors occur—and identify effective strategies to address them. Decide, as a group, what can be done to help your child, and what new skills or behaviors your child can learn.

*Excerpted from The Role of Parents in Dropout Prevention: Strategies that Promote Graduation and School Achievement, National Center on Secondary Education and Transition