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Helping Your Special Needs Child Transition Back to School

Back-to-School Tips for Parents of Children with Special Needs

As the back to school season approaches parents around the country will begin prepping for the new school year. It's a stressful process for any parent, but helping a special needs child transition back into a school routine carries its own unique difficulties.

With some planning and prep your child's transition can be successful, and your own stress will be reduced. Here are some tips and considerations for enabling a successful transition into the school year.

Organize your paperwork

There's a lot of paperwork involved in special education. Organizing it all in a single binder will help everyone transition smoothly. You should also look over your child's Individual Education Plan (IEP), especially if there's any new medical or psychological information that the school should know about.

Meet with teachers before the school year starts

Parents of special needs children should request an informal meeting with their child's teachers, education team, and other school staff members before the school year starts. This gives everyone an opportunity to meet, gather information, and learn. You might even want to type up a short, one-page document that briefly explains your family history, your child's likes and dislikes, triggers, and key takeaways from your child's IEP.

If your child will be attending a new school ask to tour the classroom and the rest of the school. This will help you see and understand where your child will be spending their time. Take pictures, too, because they'll come in handy for the next tip.

Talk to your child about school

Going back to school can cause lots of pre-classroom anxiety, but you can help calm stressed nerves with plenty of dialogue leading up to the new school year. Ask your child how he or she feels. Talk about what school will be like, explaining any new teachers or staff your child might be working with.

Some children process things visually, which is why those photos you took will be helpful. Show your child their new classroom, playground, and other areas of the school. If you have photos from past years with your child in them, and they'll be returning to the same school, look at them together.

Talking about school and seeing photos can even create some excitement, which is great!

Introduce new things and routines slowly

New routines, new clothing, a new school… all of these things can be incredibly stressful for special needs children.

Ease into school routines several weeks before school starts. This will also give you time to adjust your routines as needed. You might find that your child does best when they have a visual chart that shows their morning routine, for example.

You may even want to go easy on the new clothes, because they might feel impossibly itchy, stiff, or uncomfortable to children with sensory issues. Something as seemingly simple as wearing their favorite t-shirt can give a much-needed sense of comfort and familiarity.

With some careful planning and communication, everyone can enjoy a smooth transition back into school.

If you or your child would benefit from therapy to make the transition seamless, please contact Foundations Counseling to arrange a free consultation.