Friday, August 17, 2012

Back to School Tips for Families of Children with Special Needs

A new school year means a new grade, new teachers, new goals, and maybe even a new school! This list was created to help you and your child with special needs be as successful as you can be, and to help make the transition into a new school year a little easier.


Make Introductions

Send a short welcoming note to the teacher and staff. List some of your child’s issues and “quirks” including likes and dislikes and invite the teacher to contact you for additional information.


Get Everyone Organized

Let your child know what do expect the first few days.  Use visuals if necessary. Find some quiet time to discuss any fears or anxieties that your child may have.  Keep a family calendar of school events, special education meetings, conferences, etc Set up a box to keep all school letters, mailings, and schedules.  Build in time for homework, studying, and recreation.  Make sure your child has a clear distraction free area to work at.  Set bedtime routines and  post where they are  visible.


Start a communication log

Keeping track of all phone calls, e-mails, notes home, meetings, and conferences is important. Create a “communication log” for yourself in a notebook that is easily accessible. Be sure to note the dates, times, and nature of the communications you have.

Review your child’s current IEP

The IEP is the cornerstone of your child’s educational program, so it’s important that you have a clear understanding of it. Note when the IEP expires and if your child is up for reevaluation this year. Most importantly, be sure that this IEP still “fits” your child's needs! If you’re unsure, contact the school about holding an IEP review meeting. Make sure that all goals and objectives have measurable outcomes.

Keep everyone informed

It's important that you and the school communicate early and often! If there is anything (concerns, changes, questions about the IEP) that you feel is important to share with the staff working with your child before school starts, or during the year, don't hesitate to contact them! The more proactive and honest you are, the better the school staff will be able to meet your child's needs.

Establish before and after school routines

Discuss and plan the changes in you and your child’s daily routine that will happen once school starts. You can even begin practicing your new schedule, focusing on morning and evening routines, and begin implementing them well in advance of the first day of school.

Stay current on special education news

Being knowledgeable about your child’s IEP and their disability can help you become a better advocate for your child. Try to keep up-to-date on new special education legislation, news, and events. The more you know, the more prepared you will be to navigate the world of special education and successfully advocate for your child! Join your local disability chapter. Know what’s happening at school board meetings.

Attend school events

Take advantage of Open House, Back-to-School Night, and parent-teacher conferences to help you and your child get a feel for the school and meet the teachers, other staff, students, and families. Share the positives about working with your child, and let the teacher know about changes, events, or IEP concerns that should be considered for children in special education.

Make New Friends 

Find some other like-minded parents to share activities and conversations with.  Help your child get into playgroups or social groups with appropriately aged children.

Balance Your Activities and Trust Your Instincts

Managing a household involving a child with special needs can be daunting.  Do your best; do what you can manage without stressing yourself. Balance your (and your child’s ) wants with identified needs, and try to find time each day to relax, enjoy your child, and remember that you need to pace yourself.

Ask for Help When You Need It

We all need to ask others for help now and then.  Learn the names and contact numbers of organizations that can offer support, instruction, and council if needed.

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