Back to School Planning for Your Child with Special Needs
By Lauren Mechaly
Back to school is an exciting yet daunting and overwhelming time of year for parents and children alike. Come September, swimming pools are replaced with classrooms, and camp bags and water bottles are replaced with backpacks and pencils. Although some children look forward to this transition and are eager to start a new school year, easing your child with special needs back to this reality can be challenging. This article provides you with some helpful tips and reminders to make the transition from summer to school year a bit easier.
Familiarize Yourself, and the Staff, with the IEP
The most important resource you and your child’s teachers will have this year is the Individualized Education Program, or IEP. Review the IEP, and remind yourself of the related services your child will receive, including the transportation, therapies, health, and paraprofessional services. Provide a copy of the IEP to each staff member who will come into contact with your child each day. This includes the teacher, the aide, and the school nurse. Make sure each staff member is aware of your child’s needs, and advise the staff of any allergies your child has or any medications he may be taking. It is especially important to discuss these needs with the school nurse. Introduce yourself to the bus driver on the first day of school, and make sure he is aware of any special education transportation mandates provided for on your child’s IEP.
Meet the Teacher
Schedule a visit to meet with the teacher before the school year officially begins. Bring your child to the classroom, and let him sit with the teacher and talk about the upcoming school year. Take a walk to the bathroom, the lunchroom, and the nurse’s office. Acclimating your child to the school building is especially important if it will be the first year in a new school. If your child was in the same building in years past, explain what will be different in the upcoming school year. It is also a good idea to meet your child’s service providers in order to establish a line of communication with them.
Establish the Routine
Perhaps one of the more difficult transitions to the school year is the school schedule. Start putting your child to bed a little earlier each night and waking him up in time for school in the mornings. Establish a morning routine and a homework routine. Explain to your child what his day will be like once school begins, and work with your child to establish a routine that makes him feel comfortable.
Bring your child with you for back-to-school shopping. Let him pick out the new backpack or new sneakers. It is important that your child feel a sense of independence regarding the new school year.
Once the School Year Begins
Once the first day of school has come and gone, it is important to stay in touch with the teacher. Keep a communication notebook in your child’s backpack, or send emails to the teacher. Understand what your child is learning every day, and try to reinforce those lessons at home. Make sure your child is receiving the services mandated in his IEP.
We wish you and your children a very successful school year!