It feels like we just prepared children for summer vacation, and now school is about to begin! Here are some ideas on how to help prepare your child for the upcoming changes in routine and get him/her excited about the new school year.
Email your child’s teacher or principal questions about the arrival procedures for your child’s first day of school (e.g. which doors will your child enter, does your child have to stand up while waiting, can you wait with your child at the building doors, can you accompany your child when entering his/her classroom for the first time). Also think about what you plan to say to your child when you leave. Knowing this ahead of time will help you form a plan and prepare a script when it’s time to say goodbye to your child. For example, you can say, “Mommy will wait at the big green doors with you. When the teacher opens the door, Mommy will give you a big hug and say, ‘I love you.’ Then, Mommy will go home to wait for you. You will have fun at school. I’ll be at these doors when school is over.”
Take a field trip to school to practice the upcoming transition. Make sure you keep telling your child, "we’re practicing going to school" so your child doesn’t anticipate going into the building. Show your child where he/she will wait for his/her teacher. Again, say, "Let’s practice waiting." Then practice saying goodbye and how you will greet them at pick-up time. Practice makes perfect or, at the very least, helps decrease anxiety. Bonus Idea: Take chalk with you and mark an 'X' on the cement to provide a visual for where you want your child to stand while waiting to enter the school building.
Create a send-off routine. Some parents choose to give their child a high-five when it’s time to go while others prefer to give a hug and kiss. A parent of a child with significant sensory aversions chose to kiss her son’s hand every morning. Whatever you choose, it is very important to remember to say, “I love you. I will see you after school” to your child.
Buy a photo frame key chain and insert a photo of your child with the family. You can attach the key chain to your child’s backpack zipper and remind him/her to look at the photo to remember he/she is loved.
Create a photo book about your child going back to school. Print out EarlyVention’s downloadable “School Time” social story and then include photos of your child’s backpack, school building, teachers, etc. Staple the pages together and read it at least once a day before your child starts school. When school kicks off, ask the teacher for photos of your child’s therapist, aides and classmates to include in the provided story pages.
Take time to review your child’s IEP document before school starts. Here is a helpful video on IEPs by a parent advocate. Look at his/her goals and objectives. Are they still meaningful and achievable goals? Review how many minutes of therapy your child will receive, as well as the location for therapy (e.g. will it take place in the classroom, a resource room, the hallway, are the therapy minutes split into more than one location?). Does your child have a behavior plan? Do you understand it? If you don’t know the answers to any of these questions, schedule a time to meet with your child’s teacher or case manager. To be the best advocate for your child, you must understand his/her IEP – this document will greatly impact your child’s daily school life.
Looking to further understand your IEP rights as a parent of a child with special needs? Check out this article.
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