Preparing Your Special Needs Child for School
Summer time means many things. For some families, it's vacation; for some kids, it's stay-away camp. For special needs parents, it's time to get ready for the upcoming school year.
That's right. While you're still pouring on the sunscreen and the kids are splashing about in the pool, schools are getting ready for you. What are you doing to get ready for school? These five tips will you get yourself steeled up and armed for the difficulties that can occur when your child is in school.
- Transitions, transitions. For many kids with disabilities, transitions are the toughest thing. Some kids, however, are undergoing a major transition this school year: from preschool to kindergarten, from short days to full days, from elementary to high school, etc. All kids have to get over the "routine" of sleeping in (if they do) and playing all day long. Talk to your child to get them excited about the new school year. Remind them about the friends they’ll see again. Don’t forget to show your child the school, if it’s a new one, and to drive by it with them a few times so they won’t be frightened on their first day in a new place.
- Summer Study: Even if you are reading with your child every night, it's time to pull out the study materials and get back to school daze basics: math, vocabulary, sentences. Start daily practice with the subjects and areas they like for a few minutes a day, increasing up to longer times and dropping in the topics that are more difficult. Use play time, games, videos, and swimming as rewards. Your child may grumble, but his teacher will thank you.
- Play Dates: If your child has behavioral issues and he has been home alone all summer, start setting up play dates and events to get him interacting with other children again. Hang out with your neighbors, bring them to summer parties (or host your own), take them to places that host gymnastics or bouncy houses. Remember that being side by side with other children daily will be at least part of their school day (hopefully). If your child has difficulty with social skills, getting them in a positive, safe play environment with other children before the fall will take the edge off of their fears.
- Catch up Time: Now is also a great time to work on a skill or two that your child is lacking. Summer is perfect for potty training late bloomers, as clothes can be optional. Teach your child a new eating skill, or to say “Thank you”, or to dress herself. If there is one small task that you’d love your child to be able to do once school starts, create a plan for introducing that task on a frequent basis to your child. Remember to enlist any support from aides and caregivers, and to use the reward system that works best for your child. Do not strong arm your kids! Gently build them up to acquiring new accomplishment before their days are filled with school. It will give them a sense of accomplishment and start them off with confidence.
- Review Time – for Mom and Dad. If you had your last IEP more than two months ago, or are planning to have it soon, now is the time to review all your old paperwork (IEPs, testing, evaluations, and doctor’s visits) and see if your child has made any progress or regressions. Does the plan still fit? Have new concerns risen over the summer, like aggression issues or talking back? Has your child suddenly started speaking in 2 and 3 word sentences rather than single words? Changes like these will affect the expectations of the fall semester teaching staff and will likely necessitate calling a staff or IEP meeting to re-review your child’s goals.
The first day of school is a great day to be available, should things go awry, if and when it’s possible, but it’s not a good time to get your child situated for the new semester. A little summer prep can go a long way. It's important to keep in mind that even the best laid plans can fall by the wayside, but by preparing in advance, you give yourself and your child the best chance to have a great school year this fall.