Blog #19~ Back to School Tips for Special Needs Kids
I love scrolling the Facebook wall and seeing all of the first day of school pictures. Kids all spiffed up in their new back to school clothes and shiny shoes. Leaving the subdivision last Thursday, I glanced over at the bus stop filled with elementary kids and their parents all with cameras in hand. As moms that is what we do, take that moment and freeze frame it.
I did my share of taking those pictures, Nick, age 6….
It’s hard to believe that Nick is starting his senior in high school. He has Down syndrome and autism and is in a self contained classroom. And yes, I did take a picture of him.
It’s a little blurry because he was rocking back and forth.
I never get sad when Nick goes back to school. In fact I do the happy dance celebrating my regained independence, (not to mention actually being able to hear the sound of a pin drop after the bus takes him away).
A couple of things have changed over the years. I don’t feel the need to have everything so perfect anymore. Also, his school supplies are no longer the typical things like rulers, scissors, pencils or wide ruled notebook paper. His curriculum in the self-contained classroom has shifted from academic to functional.
Nick’s school supplies….
In last week’s blog, I mentioned that age brings wisdom and an AARP card application in the mail every few months. With 11 grade school years under my belt, here are my top 5 back to school tips for your child with special needs:
Top 5 Back to School Tips_
1. Get the haircut early, at least a week before the start of school. Having a child with special needs often means a lot of sensory issues and angst over haircuts. For Nick the stress of getting one can affect him for several days after. See Blog #18, “A Cut Above” in the archives for more haircut tips.
2. Arrange a time to take your child to the classroom before school starts. Video or take pictures of the classroom set up (desk area, sensory area, restrooms, etc..) along with the lockers, lunch room, gym and of the teachers & aids. I create a social story using these, much like a blueprint of what his day will be like. If a child with autism can see it in picture form, they will understand it. It will also help to keep the anxiety level down.
3. Have your child help lay out the clothes, organize the school supplies and pick out lunch/snack choices the night before. They will feel more invested, and it makes for a smoother start to the day.
4. Arrange the mode of communication with the teacher ahead of time at the meet and greet. I found that e-mail is the best way to go. In addition, I use a communication notebook that goes back and forth to school. I can jot down how Nick’s evening went and how he slept. In addition, the teacher and I created a custom report in a visual form. Nick is able to point to the icons and share what he did each day with me after school.
5. Consider doing volunteer work at your child’s school. It’s fun and you can see firsthand how your child is doing and interacting with peers. Here are some volunteer activities I’ve done:
*Room mom helping with parties
*Chaperoning on field trips
*Art awareness presenter each month
*Working book fairs
*Making copies, laminating, and putting together learning tools for the Case Manager/Support Teachers.
Getting organized, planning ahead, becoming involved in the classroom and communicating with the staff will help make this year a success for your child with special needs. Good luck with the new school year! That’s what is in my noggin this week. 🙂