You may have your school supply list but what about your list to get ready for back to school when you receive special education services.
- Start Talking Now: Children pick up on adults’ anxiety and negative attitudes. Start talking ahead of time with a positive attitude to prepare your child for the school year. Drive by the school and point on things they remember or things that be new. Draw pictures together about teachers or friends they like or have missed. Show them a visual schedule of how they will come home (bus) or you will pick them up. Start addressing fears and concerns with communication that they use and understand.
- Embrace the Unexpected: Remember that transitions are hard for everyone, but especially for kids with autism or other development difference. Prepare mentally that there may be some anxiety that is expressed with behavior challenges or unexpected actions. Do not let these moments discourage you. Changes may have to be made as you adapt as a family to a new routine. Some things you planned on may not work and you may have to be willing to try something a different way.
- Create a Visual Schedule: Make (or buy) a visual schedule to help your child understand and remember the daily routine. First/Then boards are simple to make and can help remind kids that they will get to do something fun after school when they get home. Pinterest is full of examples.
- Review the IEP: Don’t over stress about it but review your child’s IEP. Have there been major changes over the summer in behaviors or developments? Was there regression due to COVID19 schooling challenges that mean you might need to ask for a new evaluation? Ensure that the goals, accommodations, and placements will keep your kid safe and supported.
- Ask for Support: First weeks back can be full of challenges for everyone, but there can be added stressors in families with kids with disabilities. Go ahead and bravely call on support ahead of time. Line up the sitter or grandma to help. Let your friends know how they can support you. At school, ask the teacher for her preferred way to be contacted if you have concerns. Let the school front office staff know you are nervous and excited. Walk in and say hello to the nurse and the nurse aide. There are lots of people who want to be on your team and are simply waiting to know what play they need to make.
- Breathe: Take a deep breath. Find a meditation app, favorite song, devotional, or prayer. Your feelings are valid so give them some space. But then remember that you can do it! You continually show up and do hard things and so do your kid. They are worth it! You got this. Your kid has got this!