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It's Not Too Early To Think About Next Year

It's Not Too Early To Think About Next Year

Now that your student's teachers, paraprofessionals, and related service personnel are getting to know the learning styles and strengths of your son or daughter, it's time to move on and think about next year. Families and educators work hard in the spring creating IEPs, but often forget to tell next year's team ways the student was successful. This spring parents should urge their child's team to record what works for their student.

Often, this is the last thing families and educators do when things are going well and both are looking forward to summer vacation. But, proactive planning now can save valuable time next year and increase the chance for another productive year for the student.

Families can be instrumental in developing a record of successful strategies for new team members to have as a reminder when they get stuck. One way to do this is to create a transition portfolio. Actually, this is like creating a kind of resume or portfolio for the student to carry well into the future. This transition portfolio can be a document for people to use to learn about important strengths-based information as well as supports that work. It can also be a training tool.

Sometimes these portfolios are created like scrapbooks with photos of the student and friends doing activities and things they enjoy. One student designed his portfolio as an assignment for a class in which he was to create a self-portrait. The portfolio could also be designed in video format. No matter what the format is, the portfolio should reflect the personality of the student.

Things to Consider Including in your Child's "What Works" Portfolio:

  • Positive descriptions of the student
  • Strengths & Strategies Profile: a student profile describing the student's strengths, interests, favorite activities, and IEP goals or learning priorities for the year, as well as other unique information that classroom teachers need to know
  • Tips from current or past paraprofessionals on what works
  • Pointers about physical assistance if the student needs it
  • Tips on communicating with the student (particularly if the student has difficulty in expressing him or herself or if the people around the student have difficulty in understanding the student)
  • Behavioral supports that work and a description of situations to avoid or ways to structure situations to eliminate behavior challenges for the student
  • Ways to involve the student in different classroom activities in all subject areas (i.e. math, English, science), and in various kinds of instructional activities (i.e. small group work, lectures, individual work, etc.)
  • Unique environmental arrangements that help support the student and other supports or dimensions of the student's support plan, (i.e., seating and positioning needs, personal care details, noise-level tolerance, and climate comfort levels)
  • Samples of the student's work, including the original class assignments and descriptions of how accommodations or modifications are made so the student can be successful
  • Ideas for goals to share at the upcoming IEP meeting
  • Names of friends and ideas for connecting the student with his or her peers
  • Assistive Technology needs: description of any equipment, communication devices, software programs, "apps," or other assistive technology that a student uses successfully and how they are used, stored, transferred, as well as the names of people who can be resources
  • A photograph or brief video of the student interacting and participating with other students, being supported effectively, and being successful in their daily routine is a great complement to the transition book

Ideas for Gathering this Information – Remember to Keep Everyone to Focused on the Positive!

Teachers, para-educators, speech therapists, and many others often come up with great ideas that support the child's social and academic achievement at school. It is important to gather this information and pass it along to other teachers. Here are some ways to gather this information:

Parents can keep a list of thoughts from their perspective:

  • What are the successes from the past?
  • What I/we would like to have happen this year is...
  • Here are some things I have done to help...
  • How can I help this year?
  • Here are some dreams for my child...

Keep a list of thoughts from the child/student:

  • Here is what I want to accomplish this year in schoolwork...
  • Here is what I want to do this year with my friends...
  • Here are some dreams I have for my life...

Engage with teachers and other team members and ask what is working:

  • Do you have advice for teachers in the future?
  • What have you learned from this student?
  • What worked and what didn't? (Note: encourage them to provide an alternative idea/strategy for something that didn't work. The goal is to keep things positive!)
  • What reflections do you have about the year?
  • What successful strategies did you use most often?

And, teachers, parents or other team members could:

  • Send out a specific questionnaire with topics for the team to respond to
  • Schedule a meeting and ask the team about what is working well
  • Keep assignments and projects that the child has completed successfully.

It's never too early to start thinking about next year, and a "What Works" Portfolio is a great place to start and a useful tool for problem solving when questions or challenges arise for the team! Enjoy putting it together and remember to keep it positive!

References and Resources:
  • Kasa-Hendrickson, C., Buswell, B., and Harmon, J. (2009). The IEP: A Tool for Realizing Possibilities: A Toolkit Developed for PEAK Parent Center. PEAK Parent Center, 2009. Email PEAK at to inquire about purchasing and availability.
  • Disability Solutions, September/October 1996. Creating a Life Book: What Goes Inside.

Copyright 2012 © by PEAK Parent Center, Inc. All rights reserved. Permission to reproduce may be obtained from PEAK Parent Center. Photo of students working collaboratively on an iPad included under a Creative Commons License by Brad Flickinger.