A new school year is approaching and we understand that this can be exciting and frightening for children with special needs and their parents. It will be helpful to get started with a plan for getting ready to go back to school. We have listed some tips to help with a smooth transition from summer break to back to school.
- Organize your paperwork- There are always a lot of paperwork and meetings to keep track of in the world of special needs kids. Keeping a family calendar of school events, meetings, conferences, etc. is a great way to help you stay organized. You may also want to keep a binder or folder with all of your child’s special education documentation, meeting notes, and IEPs in sequential order in order to help you stay organized. Make sure you have plenty of copies of special documents, such as IEPs, to give to teachers or other staff if needed. Getting this completed before the school year starts will help you to start the year on the right track!
- Communication log- Documenting various forms of communication is important and can be very helpful! Keep a “communication log” for yourself in a notebook or Word document that is easily accessible. Note dates, times, and natures of communications you have via phone calls, emails, notes home, meetings, etc.
- Reviewing your child’s current IEP- It is very important to stay up to date on your child’s current IEP. Before your child starts back to school, review his/her current IEP to make sure you have a clear understanding of it. Note when it expires and if your child is up for a re-evaluation this year. Make sure that your child’s IEP still “fits” his/her current needs. If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s IEP, contact the school about holding an IEP review meeting.
- Communicating with the staff- Communication is important at the beginning of the school year and throughout the school year. Communicate any concerns, changes, or questions about your child’s IEP with the staff working with your child during the school year. The staff will be better able to meet your child’s needs the more proactive you are through communication with them!
- Plan for a change in your routine- Discuss and plan the changes in your child’s daily routine. Make your child aware of the changes that will be made once school begins. Communication of changes is important! It may be helpful to practice the new morning and night routines with your child a week or two before school starts. Take pictures of the new routine to review and narrate with your child in a visual manner. This will help make transitions and a change of routine easier for the first day of school.
- Stay up to date- You can be a better advocate for your child when you stay knowledgeable about your child’s IEP and disability. Try to stay current on new special education legislation, news, and events. The more you know, they better prepared you will be to successfully advocate for your child!
- Go to school events- Attend open house, back-to-school nights, parent-teacher conferences, etc. in order to help your child get a feel for the school and meet teachers, other staff, students, and other families. Share information about your child with the teachers who will be working with your child. Share the positives and challenges that may arise. Communicate any questions or concerns you may have regarding classroom instruction or your child’s IEP.
- Prepare a one page information sheet of your child- Type up or write a brief, one page document that covers your child at a glance. Report any food allergies or medical needs the school may need to know about, things that are likely to set your child off, and things that will calm him/her down, rewards your child responds well to, emergency contact information, etc.