After a summer break filled with all sorts of fun extracurricular activities—with some rest and relaxation thrown in for good measure—there will inevitably be another school year.
Buying some back to school clothes and supplies for your kids may be on your to-do list. But that is only scratching the surface if you have a special needs child who needs to be ready for the classroom environment.
This is so because children, and more so special needs children, could have more difficulty adjusting to a new teacher, new classmates, and a new grade level.
In order to make the transition to the school year from the summer break as smooth as possible, what follows is a back to school guide for special needs kids.
Talk it Out
Before the school year kicks off, you should open up a two-way dialogue between you and your special needs child. By so doing, you can help to lessen, if not altogether eliminate, any pent up anxiety your child may have about returning to school. Even though changes can be difficult for anyone, you can get your child to relax and even to look forward to the new school year by focusing on the positives such as the opportunity to connect with old friends, to make new ones, and to learn new things. If your child is headed to a new school, try to schedule a tour of the facility beforehand so that he or she develops some familiarity with the school environment.
Comb Over IEP
Familiarize yourself with your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), which is a written statement for special needs children. The IEP essentially serves as a blueprint for your child’s educational needs, so you need to look at it before the new school year starts to ensure that it still meets the needs of your child. Keep in mind that IEPs have an expiration date, and make sure that you stay on top of when your child is slated for a reevaluation. Ensuring that your child’s IEP is still relevant will help to make the academic year less stressful for your child and will position him or her for success.
Familiarity Breeds Content
If your special needs child gets anxious whenever he or she encounters change to the status quo, you can potentially alleviate any worries by setting up certain routines for both before and after school. These activities to start and end the day can serve as calming bookends, so to speak, which will give your child comforting, settling anchors.
Stay in Touch
When it comes to making back to school preparations, you need to focus not only on your child, but also on the staff at your child’s school. In other words, you should make it your duty to know whom your child’s teacher is, not to mention the principal, in the event that you need to inquire about anything related to your child’s IEP. The school staff are there to help your child, and you are obviously your child’s best advocate. By staying in touch, and voicing your opinions and observations, you can be the advocate your child needs.
Organize for Success
When buying school supplies, look for things that’ll help your child stay organized. For instance, you can, depending on your child’s special needs, opt for color coded binders or folders that correspond to specific subjects. This organization will help your special needs child to remain more focused and provide less opportunity for your child to possibly get flustered or frustrated in an environment that could trigger sensory overload.
Back to school can certainly be a particularly stressful time of year for special needs children. By following the aforementioned tips, you can make the transition to the school year from summer break less stressful and more enjoyable for your child.