8 Back-to-School Tips for Families with Special Needs

Summer is coming to an end soon and unless you are home schooling or sending your child to a school tailored to their needs, mothers of children with disabilities or mental health issues are experiencing the stress of starting over with new teachers, new classmates and new problems for their child.  Our lack of control over what happens with our children once they step on campus brings sleepless nights to us all. I get it. I’ve been there and survived that and I’d like to share some ideas on how to help make the transition a little easier.

  1. First order of business: celebrate the transition with your child! Make the preparations for school fun. Shop for school supplies early and involve your child in the process. Avoid the last-minute rush to Target and stock up ahead of time for the best selection. As soon as the school distributes a supply list, get it done. If you can order it all online, even better! Remember to get any new clothes or a haircut if needed. The earlier the better so there is less stress leading up to their first day back.
  2. Start adjusting sleep schedules and routines now. If you’re like most of us, summers are filled with different activities and schedules that may not fit what the school year demands. Now is the time to start rolling back the clock. Start to wake up your child earlier, have lunch at the same time as the school schedule and get them to bed on time.
  3. Designate a place at home where you will be keeping your child’s school information. Their Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan, medical information, communication binders, conference notes, etc. should all be kept in an easy to reference spot for the whole family.
  4. If possible, set up a welcome meeting with the teacher prior to school starting. This allows your child to meet them without distractions and see their new classroom environment. For older students (middle and high school) take a trip to the campus and familiarize your child with their surroundings. The jump from one classroom to multiples is a scary prospect so help ease the fear by getting them comfortable navigating the hallways.
  5. Get your schools medication form in early to your doctor so you can return it to school by the first day. Doctors are swamped in August so get your form in early (most school districts have it available online).
  6. Write a welcoming letter or email to the teacher(s) that introduces you and your child. Be sure to ask how they would like to communicate throughout the school year with you. Some prefer a daily binder that goes back and forth, others may have an email system.
  7. Offer your support to the teacher throughout the school year. If you are able to, volunteer to help either in the classroom or with projects that need extra manpower on evenings or weekends.  This goes for any extra-curricular activities as well.
  8. Share a copy of your child’s IEP or 504 document or create a one-page fact sheet about your child that can be used as a reference with the teaching team. Keep it concise and use an outline form to include topics such as Family, Communication goals, Educational goals, Social or Behavioral concerns, Food and/or Sensory issues, Tools to help reinforce positive behaviors, etc.

Ease into the transition of heading back to school with these tips and as the summer comes to a close take the time to be fully present and enjoy each moment.

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