Blog #153~Special Needs Back to School Tips
For the first time in 22 years, I don’t have to buy school supplies for my son. Nick is 22 years old and has Down syndrome and autism. He aged out of school on his birthday last February. He attends an adult day program, which he enjoys immensely. After 22 years I’ve learned a few tricks for getting back to school smoothly with your child that has special needs:
5 Special Needs Back to School Tips
1.Look over your child’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan) before school begins. The IEP outlines academic and functional goals, supports needed, accommodations and services. Reach out to your child’s case manager/IEP coordinator or Support Teacher, and ask specifically how these will be implemented.
2. Arrange a visit to the classroom before school begins. Request that a social story (pictures or video); be made of the settings that your child will be in at school, (classroom, lunch room, gym, sensory area, etc.). If possible have the social story include pictures of support staff and classroom peers. If a child with autism can see it in picture form, they will better understand it. This in turn, becomes their blueprint which; will lesson anxiety levels for your child.
3.During the classroom meet and greet, arrange a mode of communication with your child’s teacher. In the past I have used both email and a communication notebook which goes back and forth. Since my son is for the most part non-verbal, so this allowed me to share if Nick had a restless night or was maybe he was fixated on fire alarms. (By the way, he’s been at it again. He pulled a few more alarms this summer, while staff was on vacation. Check the “About” Page for the current pull count).
4.Start Early! Get school supplies, clothes and shoes shopping done and haircut at least a week before the start of school, (if not sooner). Having a child with special needs often means a lot of angst over haircuts. For Nick the stress of getting one can affect him for several days after. If you would like more tips on haircuts, hit the search box on the top right of this page. Type in: Blog #18, A Cut Above. The night before school starts, have your child help lay out the clothes, organize the school supplies and pick out lunch/snack choices. It’s all about having a smooth start to the day and this helps especially at six o’clock in the morning. One thing that was NEVER EARLY; the school bus. Make sure you have carved out your schedule accordingly and have something for your child to do while you wait. On average, we’ve waited 30-45 minutes for the bus to get to our house the first few days of school.
5.Consider doing volunteer work at your child’s school. It is fun and you can see firsthand how your child is doing in the classroom. Here are a few ways I’ve volunteered:
*Art Awareness Presenter
*Chaperone Field Trips
*Assist Case Manager/ Support Teacher- Making copies, laminating, helping to create classroom supports.
Nick and I wish you all the best as you start the new school year with your child that has special needs. Be cognizant of what is in the IEP, follow-up with communication, layout the blueprint for your child and get organized. That’s the recipe for a smooth start to the new school year. Oh, and don’t forget to take that cute first day of school picture and post it on Facebook. That’s what is in my noggin this week!
Nick’s First Day of Kindergarten, 1999
@Down Syndrome With A Slice of Autism on: