As July comes to and end, it is time to start thinking about the back-to-school season. This means backpacks and lunch boxes are already on store shelves, and kids are already whining about the impending end to summer.
The anxiety of going back to school (or to school for the very first time) is stressful for any child or parent. But for a child with special needs, this transition can be completely overwhelming. Even though July isn’t over, there are some things you can do now to make the transition back to school easier and less stressful in September.
Here are some tips and tricks from the professionals for the back-to-school saga:
Make a Journal and Take Notes
The more you can share with your child’s teacher, the better. Observe your child throughout the day, and take note of his or her behaviors, the timing of different behaviors, and any triggers that may correspond to them. Feel free to also include any strategies that help him or her. It’s one thing to say, “He melts down all the time,” but it’s a whole lot more informative to say, “He cries for two minutes when asked to get ready to leave the house in the morning.”
Then be sure to share this information with your child’s teachers. The more the teachers and school personnel understand your child and his or her diagnosis, the more smoothly the transition back to school will go.
Communicate Early and Often
Share any and all information that you can with your child’s teacher. Teachers can communicate with a notebook sent from school to home, via email, or some teachers are even using phone apps to communicate directly with parents throughout the day! You can also work with the teacher early to develop goals for your child. Getting these goals in place early will ensure that you and the teacher are both on the same page, and that any plans are implemented at the start of the school year.
If your child is old enough, be sure to involve them in any goal setting (and even in the journaling mentioned above). If your child is aware of behavioral issues that are interfering with the school day, allow them to take part in setting the goals to solve those issues.
Visit the Classroom and Teacher
Once the school is filled with parents, teachers, and other children – it can be overwhelming. Take your child for a visit of the school now, while school is out of session. Make sure you find your child’s classroom, locate the nearest restrooms, and visit the playground. If your child is familiar with these surroundings, it may help alleviate some of the first-day stress and “jitters.”
If the teacher is willing and able (and he or she should be!), ask them to be present when you visit the school. This will help your child gain familiarity with the teacher, and it will also give you an opportunity to start communicating any goals and plans that you would like implemented during the year.
Start a “School” Routine
Even though getting up early doesn’t sound fun for anyone, getting into the morning school routine now can save a lot of headaches later. Establishing a bedtime routine can be even more important. Help by scheduling a set bed time and spending time winding down before bed. A good night’s rest will help when that early morning alarm sounds.
If you know your child’s school schedule, you can also start to implement that at home. If your child won’t eat lunch until 1PM at school, have them start eating a morning snack and a later lunch. If your child is extremely tired after school, it may be necessary to get them into the habit of relaxing or even taking a short nap in the afternoon.
Advocate, Advocate, Advocate
You are your child’s advocate. It can be overwhelming and a little intimidating when working with school districts and administration. Be sure to be firm, and demand what is necessary for your child. You can familiarize yourself with the district’s regulations and policies, obtain a special needs advocate to sit in any meetings, and attend any trainings or conferences on Special Needs Education.
No one knows your child better than you, and no one is better able to communicate your child’s needs. A little work now can help to alleviate a lot of stress and worries on the first day back. To read more about preparing for your child’s first day, please visit:
Six Ways to Prepare Your Special Needs Child for the School Year
How to Prepare Your Child with Special Needs for the Back-to-School Transition