Staying on Track: IEP Tips for Winter Break

Happy Holidays! The holiday season in schools is something to behold. Full of seasonal classroom parties, special school-wide activities, staff events to keep morale up, winter break excitement to be off from school for an extended time, oh, and IEPs that still need data.

Below are a few tips and tricks from an Occupational Therapist to any school staff who work with students who have IEPs to keep themselves sane and compliant around winter break.

Triage

Take a look at your calendar. Organize your students into three groups. The first (and most pressing) group is the students that have IEPs that are due/scheduled right before winter break. The second group of students are those who have IEPs that are due/scheduled right after winter break. The third group of students are those who do not fall into either previous group.

Plan/Prepare

To best prepare for students who have IEPs right before and after winter break, make sure you have the data you need to be able to write their IEP. Have a few ideas for goal areas (if applicable) when you work with them to determine a present level of performance. Schedule an extra session to work with the student if necessary. Be sure to chat with the student’s classroom staff to both discuss the student’s skills, and if needed schedule additional sessions.

For those students with IEPs right after winter break, write their IEP before winter break if you have the time. You will thank yourself the first week back to school when students are tired, readjusting to their school schedule, or just absent from school.

And for any student who does not have an IEP around winter break, schedule yourself to get their last data point of the month at least a week before winter break starts. In my experience, that last week of school before winter break is rough. Schedules are different, students have a hard time focusing because of the excitement, and/or students have started their winter break early and are absent. This way, you know you have reliable data for your students when you go to write the next marking period progress update.

Right Before & After Winter Break

As an occupational therapist, I want my students to have fun in my sessions and enjoy the holiday season. I try to schedule each student’s last session before winter break as a ‘fun’ session. I give the students two to three seasonal activities to pick from that are different from what we normally do. For example, instead of working on handwriting (fine motor & visual motor skills), I might offer to make slime or a winter gift for a family member. I will incorporate fine motor and visual motor skills in the activities, so we are still working on the same skills just in a different way.

Right after winter break (typically the first week), I plan simple activities involving skills my students have already mastered. This gives them time to adjust to being back in school and prevents frustration during that first session back. And gives me a chance to connect with the students by talking about what they did over winter break.

Main takeaways? Triage your students so you know what deadlines are coming up first. Have a plan for students whose deadlines are right after winter break. And have fun with your students before winter break. Happy Holidays!

 

Author: Samantha Bowen, MOT, OTR/L

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