It’s here! The first day of school is filled with excitement, and also a bit of anxiety. Kids pick out first-day-of-school outfits. Parents buy classroom supplies, backpacks, and lunchboxes. Most families enjoy the preparation. But if you are a parent with a child with special needs, the new school year has extra challenges and fears. You worry about how your child will interact with her teacher, if she will be able to keep up with the curriculum, and if her IEP will work in her favor. Here are some ways to help your child with special needs start the new school year in the best manner possible:
Contact your child’s school and schedule a moment for your child to see his new classroom and meet his teacher. While you are there, you can also check out the playground, cafeteria and other rooms like the music room or the library. The more your child sees and becomes comfortable with, the less he will have to be nervous about.
Throughout his life, you can focus on the positive things about school. Talk about school activities that will be enjoyable, what classes you know he will like and the friends he will make. You can even share fun stories about when you were in school. Keeping all conversation about school upbeat will give him a point of reference when you take him for the first day.
Kids with special needs do well when they know what to expect. Be sure to review the behavior that is required at school. You can go over things like personal space, following directions and taking turns with other kids. It might also help to mirror the system your child’s teacher has set up in the classroom. At home, you can have the same practice of rewarding your child with stickers or activities if he demonstrates the desired behavior so he can transition to the classroom easier.
Before the first day, you can also give your child’s teacher a handout that explains different aspects about your child with special needs. You can also hand this to the principal and any other teachers or therapists who will interact with her. Don’t forget to include your child’s likes and dislikes, his allergies, favorite activities, common challenges, food preferences, and any information about your family. Any details will help the teacher understand your child better and in turn, the school staff can best help your child succeed.
If your child has an IEP, take some time before the first day to find and review it. Make new copies to give to teachers. Most schools and staff members already have it, however, it is always good to have a copy on hand just in case. This way, the school will know that you want regular reviews to make sure that goals are being met throughout the school year.
You are your child’s biggest advocate and supporter. No one knows your child like you do. Learn about your rights in regard to the school system and keep on top of what your child deserves by law. There is a lot of information out there, but the more you know and understand, the better are your child’s chances for success.
As always, if you feel overwhelmed and you need financial help, please contact us.
American Advocacy Group is on the front lines every day, making positive change happen for people diagnosed with Autism, Down syndrome and a range of diagnoses across the continuum. As a leading advocate for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, and the premier provider of the support and services people want and need, we understand the system and know how to take action in regard to your best interests.
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