Heading back to school means new classrooms, new people, and new expectations. Students with special needs often feel especially uncertain and fearful about returning to the school environment and routine, making this time of year an especially challenging season of adaptation.
#1 Help children track new routines. Special needs children often need more preparation to be ready to take on the school year, and visuals to help them keep track of their daily and weekly schedules provide a boost. A wall calendar at home can be marked throughout the year with special events, extracurricular activities, half days of school, vacations, holidays, and, of course, assignment deadlines. Creating a chart of the child’s daily school schedule inside a notebook or locker door can also be helpful. Color coding or using decorative stickers may make the process more effective and more fun.
#2 Team up with school staff. Establish a team relationship early on with your child’s teacher and any other adult who has contact with your child during the school day, including the lunchroom aide, the playground supervisor, and the bus driver. Encourage each of them to feel invested in your child’s success at school. By the same token, be ready to reinforce at home strategies that have been successful in the classroom.
#3 Set up continuous communication. Email messages, meetings, or phone calls let you inform teachers about what may be happening at home with your child that affects him or her at school, such as changes in sleeping or eating patterns, anticipation of family events, or homework assignments that were problematic. Some schools also send notebooks home each day for parents with comments from teachers. This communication is also a way for the teachers to share with parents how things are going in the classroom.
#4 Seek opportunities for your child to work and play with other kids. Getting along with other children is an important element of success in school. Regularly discuss with school staff ways to bring your child together with others to help form friendships. These could include finding good partners for your child when the class works in small groups, identifying peer “buddies” as helpers, or suggesting extracurricular activities or clubs with students who share similar interests.