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Back-to-School Strategies for Special Needs Kids

August 18th, 2014     By Bridget Barnes, Director Common Sense Parenting, Mother of two

Disorder, Early Childhood, School

Many parents do the “back-to-school” cheer once the summer is over, their youngsters are on their way back to the classroom and family life is back on schedule.

But for parents of children with special needs, the transition back to school might not be such a cheerful thought. I am a mom of a child with special needs. At the end of summer, I often would begin to get those back-to-school blues.  It was unsettling to think about what the school year would bring, or in our family’s situation, not bring, to our child. I struggled with these feelings for a long while. Then I got smart!

I stopped second-guessing myself, my child, his teachers and the entire school process when I started doing three things. I became more proactive, more reinforcing and a solution-finder. Now, these things aren’t easy to do – but they pay off in a big way in the long run.

Before school starts, we (my hubby, our son and I) visit the school for a “school preview.” A school preview is just about getting a lay of the land and reducing some of those first-day jitters for everyone. We meet with the staff and the principal, and spend a little time with my child’s teacher. I ask the teacher about first-quarter goals and objectives, and get a list of my son’s upcoming assignments, projects and tests. I’d also set up a way to talk with the teacher on a consistent basis so I could keep track of progress and problems.

There is nothing like making a good first impression. So we also take along some cookies and a thank you card for my son’s new teacher before school starts. I started doing this after I received a lovely gift of cookies and a card before a job I had to do. I was so grateful that I really tried hard to do even better than my best! I thought to myself later that I should try using this type of pay-it-forward technique with my son’s teachers to encourage them. I want to proactively inspire his teachers rather than waiting until something goes wrong.  I knew they would need that inspiration, especially on those difficult days with my kiddo.

It’s easy to see all the problems your child is experiencing in school, particularly when your child has special needs. The key for parents is to look for solutions and not to get overwhelmed by the problems. It’s best to break problem situations down into parts. First, identify and immediately address any issue that is harmful or affects the well-being of your child or others. Next, identify the most immediate and doable fixes everyone can use to help solve the problem. Finally, brainstorm and critically think through complex problems. Over the course of several meetings with key school staff, working together as a group, you may find a solution or at least make improvements.

These strategies of encouragement, prevention and solution-finding won’t solve all the problems your special needs child might experience in school. But you will have fewer concerns, more confidence in your ability to identify and resolve issues, and positive ways to get rid of those back-to-school parenting blues.

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