Regardless of the type of school or setting, back-to-school time is when we hit the reset button on our child’s educational plan. New teachers and other school personnel come into our child’s life. There are perhaps changes in classrooms or services. This is definitely the time when routines change and a back-to-school checklist is helpful.

When my daughter Elizabeth was young, I used to dread the transition from her summer program to her school year program even though she was looking forward to it! Along with the change in the New England weather from beautiful summer days to fall, flu season, and difficult to traverse snow, came the treacherous change in personnel, scenery, and numerous threats to my medically fragile child’s health and well-being! This was always a time when I was most anxious and losing sleep.

Over time, I developed this back-to-school checklist to maintain her safety and my sanity, and now I share it with you.  As a parent and a professional who advises families every day about these issues, I want to give you some tips that really help start off the year with your best foot forward!

Review Your Child’s Individualized Education Plan

  1. Has your student made sufficient progress on their goals?
  2. What have you discovered while observing your student during the learning process or what have previous educators shared with you? Does your student do well with one-to-one learning or need more interventions?
  3. What needs to be changed or updated if there will be a new classroom or school environment?
  4. Does your child have an Individualized Healthcare Plan (an IHP) that needs to be updated? If not, should your student have an IHP now?  An Individualized Healthcare Plan is required by law when a child has a medical condition that impacts his or her ability to access education during the school year/day such as a child who needs to take insulin or other medication  while they are at school, a child with life threatening allergies, or a child with a g-tube and seizures like my daughter, Elizabeth.

Did You Collect Any New Information Over the Summer?

  1. Was your child ill or has anything changed about their condition or your family situation?
  2. Did you receive any new diagnoses?
  3. Does your child have any new healthcare difficulties to discuss with the school?
  4. Did you receive any new reports or evaluations that you need to share with the school?

Does Your Child Require One-to-One Staffing Such as a Nurse or an Aide?

If this is a new request for the IEP, then a TEAM meeting will need to be called to discuss the request. Even if you’ve always had this one-to-one staffing for your child, new protocols will need to be in place prior to the return to school.

  1. Where will you find the staffing now?
  2. Who employs them, you or the school district?

Other Considerations Before Returning Your Child to School

  1. If your child has mobility issues, will the elevators be available now and are the classrooms spaced well for him or her?
  2. Are there medicine or special food that need to be refrigerated and will your student be allowed to use the refrigerator?
  3. What are the new emergency procedures for your child in case of fire or other emergency crises?

Do You Need to Call a TEAM Meeting to Discuss These Issues in a More Formal Manner?

Even though everyone is very busy and inundated—do not be intimidated! Advocate for your child!

Is Your Child Transitioning Care or Services?

For parents whose children are in their transition years, transition planning is a bridge between security and structure offered by the school system to adult services and supports.  Our new Special Needs Transition Planning Masterclass offers guidance through an online course that applies to students nationwide in addition to a group coaching program.  Read more in our article: Transition Planning Masterclass Announcement


  1. If you are not comfortable with how things are set up for your child in school, you have options. Your child is entitled to a free and appropriate education under IDEA. That includes homeschooling and distance learning.
  2. Be thoughtful about the long-term value of developing relationships with physicians, providers, schools, caseworkers, and others. Nurture these relationships.
  3. It is always better if plans are a team decision rather than a reluctant response to demand. Being patient, thoughtful, and encouraging in those relationships (with physicians, providers, schools, and caseworkers) is a challenge, but it is critically important.