Navigating Special Education for a Successful School Year

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In preparation of the upcoming school year, we dive into a crucial topic for parents and caregivers – preparing for the new school year within the realm of special education. A brain tumor diagnosis can bring about unique challenges for both the child and their family, and ensuring a successful and supportive educational experience requires careful planning and collaboration.

Cheryl Theis is an education advocate with Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund. She helps us better understand how to navigate special education laws, plans and accommodations.

Understanding the Challenge: Receiving a brain tumor diagnosis for your child can be overwhelming, and the thought of transitioning back to school might raise several concerns. It’s important to recognize that your child’s education journey may need some adaptations to accommodate their health condition. Special education services are designed to support children with unique needs, and understanding the process can significantly ease the transition.

Key Considerations:

  1. Assessment and Individualized Education Plan (IEP): If your child requires special education services, an IEP will be developed to outline their unique educational needs and goals. Collaborate with the school’s special education team to ensure the plan addresses your child’s medical and academic needs.
  2. Medical Documentation: Provide the school with necessary medical documentation, such as treatment plans and doctor’s recommendations. This information helps educators and staff understand your child’s health needs and potential impacts on their learning.
  3. Communication: Establish open lines of communication with your child’s teachers, school nurse, and administrators. Regular updates on your child’s condition and any changes can help the school provide appropriate support.
  4. Adaptive Strategies: Work with the school to implement adaptive strategies that can facilitate your child’s learning. These might include extended breaks, a quiet space for rest, or flexible attendance policies.

Actionable Tips:

  1. Plan Ahead: Start preparing for the new school year well in advance. Discuss your child’s needs with their medical team and the school to create a comprehensive plan.
  2. Meet with the School: Schedule a meeting with the school’s special education team to discuss your child’s diagnosis and needs. This is an opportunity to share information and collaborate on the best possible support.
  3. Educate the School Community: Help raise awareness among teachers, staff, and other parents about your child’s condition. This can foster understanding and empathy within the school community.
  4. Emotional Support: Recognize that the emotional toll of a brain tumor diagnosis can impact your child’s mental well-being. Ensure the school is equipped to provide emotional support if needed.


  1. Local Support Groups: Seek out local support groups for parents of children with brain tumors. These groups can offer valuable insights and emotional support.
  2. Online Resources: Explore online platforms, forums, and organizations that provide information and resources for parents of children with brain tumors.
  3. Advocacy Organizations: Connect with advocacy organizations focused on brain tumor awareness and support. They often offer educational resources and guidance.

Conclusion: As a parent or caregiver, preparing for the new school year with a child diagnosed with a brain tumor requires careful planning and proactive communication. By understanding the process of special education, collaborating with the school, and accessing available resources, you can ensure that your child receives the support they need to thrive academically and emotionally. Remember, you’re not alone on this journey, and there are numerous resources and communities ready to provide assistance and guidance.

Links to Resources:

Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund

Slides: Supporting the Rights of Children with Disabilities/Medical Needs