School will soon begin around the country. During my 25 years as a teacher, the parents who used some or all of these 9 tips helped their kids with special needs start the school year on a positive note.
Tip #1: Stick to the School Supply List
Purchase exactly what’s on the school supply list and nothing more. Glitzy, fancy versions of items on the list often create distractions in the classroom. Plus they tend to be more expensive, and who needs that? Filling the school supply list costs enough already.
Tip #2: Start the School Schedule 1–2 Weeks Ahead of Time
Implement school bedtimes, wake up times, breakfast time, and lunch time at least 1–2 weeks before school starts so kids are ready for the school routine. As bodies adapt to set meal times, they are better able to adjust to the school bathroom break schedule.
Tip #3: Develop a Positive Mindset about School
Kids base their attitudes about school and teachers on what they observe in their parents, so you need to develop a positive mindset. Try out these statements to stay positive about school and teachers:
- Educators are people, just like you.You are more alike than different from one another.
- Most teachers are in education because they care about kids.If they were in it for the money, they would have chosen a different career path.
- Even if my school years were negative, my child’s can be positive. In other words, don’t let your bad memories color your child’s life.
Tip #4: Cultivate a Spirit of Cooperation, Notof Confrontation
While parents of kids with special needs must advocate for their children, advocacy works best when parents and educators cooperate. Therefore, start the new year with cooperation. Treat teachers and administrators as members of your child’s team and see what happens. If they cooperate by following your child’s IEP and suggesting appropriate goals during revisions, do a happy dance. If not, move toward confrontation slowly and calmly. You really can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
Tip #5: Take Your Child to Visit a New School Ahead of TimeCall the school secretary (Who, BTW, along with the custodian, knows more about what’s happening at school than the administrator or anyone else) to schedule a visit. The secretary will know when the school is open, what door to enter, and whether or not the floor wax is dry.
Tip #6: Call the Teacher Ahead of Time for a Visit with Your Child
A casual drop in visit to meet the teacher before school starts may seem like a good idea, but the weeks before school starts are often filled with faculty meetings and trainings. Teachers who have children in day care need advance warning to make arrangement with their providers. So call the teacher ahead of time to be sure the meeting is a go.
Tip #7: Practice Meeting the Teacher
Once the meeting with the teacher is set up, do some role play with your child. Explain how you will introduce him to the teacher and how the child should respond. If your child is verbal, practice small talk about summer vacation and asking the teacher about hers. If your child has a communication device, practice using it. This will facilitate interaction between your child and the teacher before the noisy and crowded first day of school.
Tip #8: Set Up a Communication Method
Some parents can address this during the teacher visit described above ifthe child can wait calmly across the room. (Bring something for your child to do while you quietly talk to the teacher.) Otherwise, offer to send an email, to arrange a time for a call, or to set up a second visit to discuss a way to communicate regarding your child. This is essential if your child is non-verbal or is verbal, but not a reliable messenger.
Tip #9: Make Reasonable Requests
Your child’s teacher is responsible for the education and well-being of every child in the class, and each child deserves an equal portion of her time, energy, and attention. Therefore, if you are requesting something beyond what’s in your child’s IEP or 504 plan, be sure your request is reasonable. If your child needs more support than his or her present placement and IEP provides, ask for a meeting with the educational team about increased services. The team, not the teacher, has the power to authorize changes in services and placements.