As summer comes to an end, the vacations, trips to the zoo, and times hanging out by the pool also come to an end. Not only do the activities stop, but your child’s schedule is drastically changed. Without proper preparation, this can often set the child up for a difficult start to the school year. Bonus: some of the below tips are also helpful for students who do not have special needs.
1: Rally the Team
Call an IEP meeting prior to the school year starting. Remember, the IEP is a working document, and a parent has a right to call a meeting at any time. This is also easier for the school staff due to teacher work days prior to students arriving, allowing for more flexibility in order to gather the entire IEP team.
Update the team on any changes, both positive and negative, that you have observed over the summer. Provide the team with information about what activities your child was involved with over the summer. This gives a good teacher valuable information to build a rapport with your child. Have you seen any behavior changes to your child over the summer? If so, you need to update the team in order for them to service your child’s behavioral changes. Also, remember to give information to the team about any medication changes.
If your child has transportation services in their IEP, make sure to ask questions to the team on what this will look like for the coming year. Request that the driver of the bus/van/car for your child be invited to the meeting. If applicable, request that the aide/paraprofessional that is on the bus, van or car are also invited to the meeting. This person or person(s) are vital to your child’s school day. They are the individual(s) that start and end your child’s school day.
2. Get Back to the Routine
Start getting back to a schedule with regular bedtime routines and morning routines as soon as possible. Getting your child back to a regular sleep pattern is extremely important. The start of a new school year provides a great opportunity for starting a new routine. If the child is transitioning to a grade level where homework becomes an expectation, set up a designated place and time for homework to be completed. Consistency is the key to the routine.
3. Familiar Faces and Places
Introduce your child to their new teacher through yearbook photos or the internet. It is comforting for a child to be able to at least recognize their teacher the first day of school. Some teachers will send a note with a photograph of themselves to each child. This is usually at the elementary level. Either way, it is extremely beneficial to reach out to your child’s teacher to set up a time to come to the school and meet. This also provides an opportunity for your child to see their classroom for the upcoming year. Make sure they know where the nearest restroom is located. If they switch classes during the day, walk their schedule with them a few times. If the child is entering middle or high school, make sure you stop by your child’s locker. You can unload some of the school materials that will be turned in the first day of school, which alleviates stress for both your child and you on that first day. More importantly, make sure your child is comfortable operating the combination lock on the locker. Many students have been in tears on the first day of school simply because they are not able to open their locker. Avoid this, and make sure your child is confident opening and closing their locker.
4. Establish a Game Plan With Your Child the Night Before
- Reminders of the bedtime and morning routines.
- Reminders of what time your student will wake up
- Will your student shower the night before or in the morning?
- Tell them (or let them choose ahead of time) what breakfast will be on the first day of school.
- Will your child be packing a lunch or buying from the school cafeteria?
- What does transportation to and from school look like?
Communication is essential to an IEP team, really any team for that matter. Be in correspondence with your child’s teachers, related services providers, and administrators. Even though your child has an Intervention Specialist, who is the case manager, sometimes it is more valuable to have that conversation with the specific service provider or teacher. These communications should include positive and negative items that are going on in school.
Communication with your child is vital. Take interest in their day and what they are doing at school. Don’t settle with, “how was school?”, “good.” We understand it can be difficult to get more information out of a child or even young adult, but if you have an open line of communication with your child, so many items become more manageable.