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Circle of support: Kindergarten Inclusion Cohort & the importance of relationships

By Jamie Burch

Moving from early childhood to school years can be a confusing and sometimes disempowering experience for parents of children with disability. We created the Kindergarten Inclusion Cohort (KIC) to provide parents with tools and guidance to help them navigate this transition and become strong advocates for their child’s inclusive placement in the regular classroom. But the KIC also provides an additional vital resource—a community of other parents to lean into for support.

Anna Herbig graduated from KIC in 2017 when her daughter, Hattie, was heading into kindergarten. Anna shared, “[KIC] definitely kept us on track. My family learned about rights and the laws around IEPs.” Anna also gained knowledge about components of informed decision making such as choices, options and their outcomes, classroom, behavior, and communication supports, and inclusive goal writing, while successfully being able to work with the school team, and confidently holding strong to your personal values so they are considered in your child’s educational planning. 

As Shakyra Rosario prepared for her daughter Soleyl’s transition to Kindergarten, she looked to Anna for mentorship and support.

Anna said, “I know my daughter going through the process ahead of [Soleyl] has been super
helpful to Shakyra. Having support of others that have gone through it is priceless.”

Shakyra replied, “I know that I can count on Anna unconditionally. She helped me be 100% prepared for the IEP meeting and came to support me during the meeting as well. She’s without a doubt one of my best friends!”

For Shakyra, the best part of Soleyl’s first IEP meeting was that “their main goal was inclusion like us. Inclusion means everything! We all belong and this needs to be normalized in schools. We all contribute to society.”

For Anna, inclusion means, “that my daughter enrolls in general education, with the proper accommodations being honored, and learns alongside her same-age peers [without disabilities], and is being invited to birthday parties and playdates. The school secretary knows her teacher, not her IEP case manager.”

Having high expectations and sharing your child’s strengths at IEP meetings can help
balance out the deficit-based process. Anna offered, “Don’t go to meetings alone! Keep contact with all the team members. Attend the Kindergarten Transition Bootcamp through ABI/NWDSA. Read the state common core guidelines to come up with appropriate grade level goals and be aware of what students should be exposed to.”

Shakyra suggested, “Make sure to get a draft of IEP ahead of time to review. Come prepared
and with an open mind. Bring someone to the meeting that has experience and can help if
needed. Also have no doubt that you know your child best.”

KIC offers a unique opportunity to create a circle of support with other parents and
professionals. There is power in relationships, leaning into others, and having a network of
peers and mentors.

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