Back-to-school time is tough for all students (and even teachers!) but it can be an especially difficult transition for a student with special needs. Last year at this time, I wrote on 5 back-to-school suggestions that focused on what the parent can do to be a part of their child’s school year.
Today’s Post targets suggestions for parents to do with their children to help ease their child’s mind and make the first day of school jitters a little less…jittery.
1. Tour the building ahead of time
Especially if the school is new to your child or it is their first year attending. Many schools have an open house available for this purpose but if that even seems to overwhelming; contact your child’s special education teacher and set a private tour up individually.
2. Meet the teachers
ALL the teachers. Whether this is at the open house, private tour, or the day before school starts. Ask each teacher for permission to take their photo. Print out the pictures for your child with the teacher’s name visible on the photo. Frequently look at the pictures with your child, identifying the teachers name, and sharing any cool facts you know about that individual.
I have a student who adamantly states an individual “is ugly” if he is unfamiliar with that person and is expected to work with them. By having the opportunity to view their picture and “get to know them” before actually meeting them, your child may feel more comfortable on that first day of school.
3. Go on the bus route in advance
Check with your district and see what the policy is for this. Depending on the bus policy and your child’s needs, you may be able to arrange a “tour” of the bus where your child can learn the behavior expectations on the bus.
Often, a bus can be a confusing experience with the noise levels and new rules – especially not having to wear a seatbelt. If you are lucky, the bus may be able to take you and your child through the route they will travel daily to and from school.
If this is not an option, you can still hop in the car and travel the bus route yourself. Point out where the bus will stop and explain that at those stops, new kids will be getting on the bus. (If your child has sensory issues – maybe pack a pair of noise-blocking headphones in his backpack for the first ride on the bus!)
4. Create a social story
What will your child’s school experience be like? They are as anxious as you are to find out!
Create a story that includes pictures of the school, their teachers, their classroom, and any important location they will travel to throughout the day (lunchroom, art, gym, office, etc.) The more real pictures the better….
5. Establish the school routine
Will your home have new routines and expectations once school starts? Will bedtime be earlier? Will TV be limited? Will baths be more frequent? Begin the new routine at least 2 weeks before school starts.
If your child has any negative feelings toward these changes, they will not be directly associated with school. And by the time school starts, your child will be familiar and comfortable with the new expectations.