Whether your child is first entering the school system, transitioning to a new school, or returning to familiar environment, there can be a lot of anxiety for both the child and caregiver. Here’s my list for making the school year start off right, and stay that way!
- - Start their routines a week or two in advance – if you know your child needs to wake up at 6 to get ready for school, start waking them at 6 in advance! Stick with consistent bedtimes and bedtime hygiene.
- - Just like waking and rising, a consistent routine for meals, snacks, leisure, and bathing can also go a long way towards success
- - If your child uses a visual schedule, do not wait for day 1 to start using it. Have them be familiar with the schedule and the protocol for using it
- - If you have social stories for your child, make sure they are familiar with the stories
- - Make sure they are familiar with important locations – walk them to the bus stop and explain that this is where they will be picked up and dropped off
- - If they don’t already, let your child pick out their own outfits
- - Let them pick what they want for lunch/snack
- - Let your child navigate the school supply aisle, and pick what they want
- - Provide as much choice as possible in the home life and in getting ready for the school year/day. So much of our children’s days are dictated by adults.
- - Once school begins, make sure you are communicating positively and talking about their day.
- - Make sure their backpack is not too heavy or cumbersome – you want them to have everything they need, but if they can’t physically manage it, then it’s too much stuff
- - Allow them to voice their anxieties and concerns over the new school year – talking about this early on can help avoid potential barriers down the road
- - Let them take part in the IEP process – There are many ways to do this. Their contribution doesn’t always need to be vocal – have them make a PowerPoint about what they’d like to learn, their strengths, things they can work on, and things they like to do.
- - Check your child’s backpack daily
- - Have a school/home communication log: Even just a few sentences about successes and barriers both at home and at school can help with trouble-shooting and playing to strengths down the road
- - Keep a binder with all of your child’s most up to date information. This may include a list of allergies, particular strengths, potential barriers, preferred foods/items/activities, IEP, and other supplemental information. Also, make sure that your contact information can be easily accessed if need be, and that there is emergency contact information as well.
- - If your child takes medication, be sure to be in contact with the school nurse to discuss administration of the medication
- - If your child uses augmentative and assistive communication, make a point to teachers that they need to have it at all times. Additionally, make sure that you as the parent are doing the same. These are your child’s words and voice!
- - Be in contact with teachers early
- - Tour the building with your child. Have them meet their teachers, show them key locations such as their classroom and bathroom, show them where the bus will pick them up, etc.
- - Look over the IEP and any other materials (BIP, 504 plan, sensory diet, etc). Make sure you feel comfortable with it and competent about what it means. If you have questions – ask them!
- - If it seems necessary, write out a social story about waking up, getting ready, going to school, and expectations
- - Make sure their backpack is stocked appropriately. This may include extra changes of clothing, extra snacks/drink, EPI-Pen, etc.
This list is not exhaustive, there are a lot of other ways to help your child prepare. You know your child best! Think about what you can do to make them the most successful member of their learning community they can be. Most of all, make school fun!
[If you have additional questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me.]