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Preparing For Your Child's Graduation; Tips For Students with Behavioral Health Challenges

Graduating high school is a big moment in any child's life. Last May we partnered with the Peal Center and HUNE to create a tip sheet for parents and primary caregivers on how to prepare their child with behavioral health challenges for graduation. As a parent raising a child that is struggling you know that knowledge is power and equipping yourself with you and your child's rights regarding graduation can help you better advocate for them. This month we updated the tip sheet to continue to get parents and primary caregivers of children that are struggling the most accurate and helpful information possible.

If your child is scheduled to graduate this year and you want to discuss their options to bank their diploma and continue learning, schedule a meeting with your IEP team now.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Basic Education Circular (BEC) entitled “Graduation Requirements for Students with Disabilities” (March of 2016[1]) a student with disabilities may graduate one of two ways:   “the fulfillment of high school graduation requirements set forth in Chapter 4[2] (relating to academic standards and assessment), or  upon the completion of his/her individualized education program (IEP) goals.” The IEP team, which includes the student and their family, makes the decision of which way a student will graduate."Banking” a student’s high school diploma If a student would benefit from special education services after their fourth year of high school, up until age 21, the PA School Code allows the student to “participate in commencement ceremonies with the student’s graduating class and receive a certificate of attendance.”  “A diploma is dated and awarded when the student with disabilities actually graduates.”[1]  This is known as “banking” the diploma it allows the student to participate in the commencement ceremony with their classmates, and receive additional transition-related educational services.  Individualized services can be provide outside the school building, including work experience, exploring post-secondary options or taking class(es) at a community college, building independence in the community, etc.  Tip: A student can participate in educational activities outside the school building that support their IEP goals. If the IEP team agrees that these activities are needed to achieve the IEP goals, the school should pay for any costs involved with the student’s participation. Instructional costs may include: transportation, staff, accommodations, materials & supplies.What steps can I take? Contact your child’s school and request a virtual IEP meeting to discuss next steps for your child. If your child attends a school outside of the home school district, you may want to contact your home district as well.   The student with a disability and their parent(s) must be an integral part of the IEP team decision-making about whether or not a student is ready to graduate with their class.     Preparing For Your Child's Graduation Tips Sheet for Students with Behavioral Health Challenges and their Families Considerations for the IEP team when making a decision about graduation:     How does the student feel about graduating?   What are the student’s strengths and goals?  What supports do they need to accomplish their       goals? Is the student ready for graduation? Would the student benefit from “banking” their diploma and exploring vocational and post-secondary options? What accommodations can be made? For example:  Participate in graduation ceremonies, provided this is feasible under current situation, and receive a certificate of attendance, but continue to work on IEP-related Transition goals.  When the IEP Team decides that the student is ready to graduate, they are awarded the official diploma. 30 Credits from a College[1]: Receive a regular high school diploma by completing 30 credits from a College, including a Community College.  This is             an official high school diploma, not a GED. 

In this tip sheet, you will find some considerations that you can go over with your child's IEP team in order to properly plan for graduation. Just because you may not be able to meet with them in person does NOT mean they are not there for you and your child. Under the "What steps I can I take?" portion of the tip sheet, you will learn how to get started on this collaborative process. Remember that you and your child are an integral part of the team and the decision-making.

The tip sheet explores other ideas and tangible tips that can help you make the best possible decision for your child. However, we understand that this can be a very overwhelming thing to think about. For 1 on 1 (FREE and CONFIDENTIAL) support click here to learn more about our Family Support Partners. They can run through a practice IEP meeting with you, offer some advice based on their lived experiences and extensive research, or just act as a non-judgmental sounding board.

The class of 2020, and now the class of 2021, have had very unique and, more often than not, challenging ends to their high school experience. We have spent the last few months talking directly to students from around the state to learn how this experience has been for them. What we noticed with a number of students was that this year seems to have completely changed the trajectory of many of their post-graduation plans. Next month we are going to dive into how high school students are doing, and how and why many of their plans have changed. Be sure to check back to read more or become a member and have our blog sent directly to your inbox every Friday morning.

Have you been keeping up with our What Our Kids Want Us to Know Series? Click here to read more about the series, and get a more in-depth look about this past year has impacted middle schoolers.

Find a sharable and downloadable version of the tip sheet here:

Find a sharable and downloadable version of the tip sheet in Spanish here:

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