SACRAMENTO – A new school year means a new grade, new teachers, new goals, and maybe even a new school for some students. In order to help ease the transition for students with special needs this coming school year, California State PTA offers parents a few helpful back-to-school tips. 

Visit the new school site with your child. Point out bathrooms, the cafeteria, office, playground, etc. Older students may benefit from printed maps with time schedules. Talk to your child about exciting new classes, activities and events he or she can participate in.

Help your child reconnect with schoolmates.

Review Individual Education Program (IEP) goals. Ensure the goals are still relevant and note the date of the annual review. Remember, you can request an IEP review anytime.

Connect with the teacher. Write a brief introduction about your child (including a photo) with his or her likes and dislikes, social/emotional set-offs, motivators, methods of communication, pertinent medical information and any other important information. The more proactive and honest you are, the better teachers and school staff will be able to meet your child’s needs.

Help plan an ability-awareness training. If your child is in a general education class, consider helping to plan an ability-awareness training with the class. Make sure to get buy-in from your child first. Write a story for the other kids so they can understand what makes him or her unique, and things that may be difficult for your child.

Keep paperwork organized. Create a family calendar of school events, special education meetings, conferences, etc.

Continue learning. Stay up-to-date on special education news and legislation, so you can advocate for your child, and all children.

Create a communication log. This will help ensure that you and the school staff are on the same page. Be sure to note the dates, times and nature of the communications you have.

Attend school events when possible. School events such as back-to-school night and parent-teacher conferences offer a great opportunity to meet staff and other students and families.

Offer to help – either in the classroom or at PTA-sponsored events.

For additional information about California State PTA’s work to advance education about and support the concerns of students with special needs, visit Additional information is also available from the California Department of Education at 

For more back-to-school tips for parents and information on the importance of family engagement, visit PTA connects families and schools, and helps kids and parents feel welcomed at school throughout the year.