Four Core Back-to-School Tips for Children with Learning Disabilities
While many kids and parents are joyfully buying school supplies, planning field trips, and scheduling extracurricular activities, parents of students with a learning disability may find themselves overwhelmed and ready to hide under their child’s desk! Going back-to-school can be hard for everyone, but it’s especially difficult for children who struggle and are not looking forward to another school year. But transitioning your child with a learning disability back to school doesn’t have to be a struggle.
This year, ease your anxiety and give your child (and your sanity) a great start to the school year by keeping in mind these key ways to transition your child back to school.
If your child is anything like mine, the worst part of back-to-school is the anxiety! How am I going to do this year? Am I going to be able to tackle that tough subject? What if it’s too hard for me? These types of questions swirl around in our kiddos heads, making the start of the school year more stress and less excitement. And for good reason! School, even homeschooling, is simply harder if you have a learning disability. That’s why the first way to help your child transition back to school is through encouragement.
Children with learning disabilities need a serious dose of confidence and reassurance to get mentally prepared to face academics. Talk, talk, talk about the year! Discuss their concerns and remind them of their strengths, how far they’ve come, and how you’ll always be by their side. What our children need most is to know we are in their corner, every step of the way.
Talking about expectations and goals for the year is another great way to prepare. If we want our students to do well, we need to lay the groundwork for what we expect and what’s coming. This will reduce anxiety and put you both on the same page. Communication is the key to having a great year. As the year starts, I find the best way to do this is to have check-in dates weekly.
Spend some quality, alone time with your child and ask about how things are going, what new experiences they are enjoying, and what their struggles are. Don’t ask broad, overwhelming questions like, “How was your day?” or “How do you like math?” Instead, ask specific questions such as, “When have you felt loved, afraid, or anxious?” and “What about math is exciting and what is a struggle?” And, most importantly, remind them that you’re their coach and you are here to help them succeed!
Getting in a new back-to-school routine can seem like a huge mountain to climb; so start the routine and skills as early as possible. Get up earlier, go over behavior expectations and routines, and limit activities that will soon be off the schedule. This might mean limiting electronic use, sitting at the table for a bit longer each night to practice sitting still, and getting back to a more rigid schedule with chores, reading time, etc. in the morning to prepare for what your school day may look like. Many students who struggle thrive with having an expected routine and schedule. Make sure they help to build that schedule and then encourage them to stick to it!
Tools and Support
There will be days that are harder than others. Making sure your child has the tools and support system they need to do school well can ensure you stay on track during the transition to your new school year. If your child has sensory issues, make a homemade sensory kit with any fidgets, weighted materials, and other helps. That way, when they get overwhelmed, they can reach into their sensory bag and pick out something to help them through. Students with processing delays will greatly benefit from notecards that are spiral bound to make lists of individual processes for math, science, etc. Think through what your child will need to ease the learning disability and best support their needs, then go get it! We all feel better and are more capable of succeeding when we have the right tools in our toolbox!
While back-to-school can be hard for children with learning disabilities, it can also be a time of bonding for you and your student. Be open and available; talk less and listen more to your children to help ease their minds and encourage them to problem-solve. Above all, the most important thing you can give your child during back-to-school and the many challenges and transitions that this time of year brings is yourself — your time, your energy, your preparation, and your attention. These years fly by too quickly, so enjoy all these new experiences together!