Helping Your Child with Special Needs Prepare for Back to School

By Carissa Garabedian, Publisher of Know Different and Macaroni Kid Richmond August 2, 2017

As the new school year approaches, you are probably already working on a strategy to make the school year a success for your child. This is not easy and requires work ALL the time — I am sure you can all agree with that!

Here are some ideas that help me, and will hopefully help you as well.

1. Communicate
Schedule a time to sit down with your child’s teachers before school starts (or at least during the first couple weeks of school) to offer input about your child that will help them better understand your child and their needs. I follow this up with an email as well. Communication is key; the more you can provide, the better. If possible, set something up to help with shared communication during the year. A notebook, Google Doc, or whatever works best for you and your child's teacher.

2. Plan Some Activities that Incorporate Learning
We have returned to 10-15 minutes each day of computer work. We slacked off in the middle of summer break, but have stepped this up for the last few weeks so the transition back into school will not be as tough. We are also finding ways to add some reading in to each day. We enjoy taking turns reading out loud to one another. Another idea: grab a notebook and write or draw something you did every day. Even if it is brief, it will reinforce a great habit and help to journal the summer.

3. Visit the Classroom
If you can, find out who your child’s teacher is or where the homeroom classroom is, and schedule a visit. Even if the staff is not there, just getting acquainted with the new room can help to ease anxiety. Some schools may even allow you to bring in your child’s supplies. It does not hurt to ask — you won’t know until you try! We also like to visit our son’s school and walk the track to keep the surroundings familiar.

4. Create a Countdown Calendar
A countdown calendar is a fun activity for your child to use for the last few days or weeks before school starts. I have found some great ideas on Pinterest. They are super easy to make and your child will learn to look forward to using it every day. Having something like this can help your child to feel less anxious, as well as provide some structure in planning the days.

5. Investigate Transportation
If your child will be taking the bus, see if you can meet the driver. Call your school or the bus company to see if they know who it will be and if you can arrange to talk to them or meet with your child. If not, maybe you can visit the bus yard to see the buses and have your child become more familiar with what to expect.

6. Schedule Playdates
Connect with a parent who will have a child in school with yours. Even if it is just for an hour, you will be helping to create some social connections and strengthen relationships, as well as making a familiar face connect for your child. These dates do not have to be long or complicated. A park, ice cream, or just a visit at your house for an hour.

7. Sleep
Start preparing your child for their school year sleep routine. If they typically go to sleep at 8:30, but this summer they have been up until 10:00 PM (yes, that is our house), start making that time a little earlier every week so when the night before school arrives, it won’t be such a shocker!

8. Get Organized
This one is for you as well as your child. Create some strategies to get organized this year. A place for school papers, supplies, and the calendar of all the dates you will need to know. I have a bulletin board for each of my kids with a folder that I store papers for each one. It makes a big difference for me when I need to find something!

I hope you find these tips helpful and that they offer you and your child some success in the new school year.

P.S. Make sure you find time for some last minute fun and memories!

Carissa Garabedian is the publisher of Know Different and mother to a special needs child in Richmond, Virginia. Carissa also publishes the award-winning Macaroni Kid of Richmond.