For the past twelve years, I’ve sent kiddos off to school. It has been a mixed blessing; there is part of me that is ecstatic to have the school routine back! AHHHHH…for 35 hours each week, my children are engaged and I can put away my cruise director hat for nine blissful months.
Then, I quickly remember that when the cruise director hat is on the shelf, the advocate hat may have to be dusted off!
It makes me wonder how our kiddos feel when they go back to school?
Anxious? Stressed? Excited? Confused? Sad?
For many of our kiddos, these emotions present the same! They may engage in dysregulated behavior, have increased self-stimulatory or self-injurious behavior, may have more frequent outbursts and regressed sleep issues, just to name a few.
As parents (and advocates!), there is much we can do to prepare our kiddos for this transition. We can also prepare teachers and professionals to know our children before they ever walk through the front door! Mostly, we can choose to be grateful for IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) which allows our children to attend school and have support!
Here are a few ideas to consider which may set the occasion for a successful back to school transition!
✅ A visual monthly calendar with home and school icons can show our students when school is going to start! This visual tool can be used throughout the year to communicate to our students when school is out (including weekends and holidays).
✅ Create an “All About Me” profile about your student to share with the teacher and other professionals. Update it at the end of the summer and include things like the student’s likes/dislikes, things that might make the student happy or upset and important things for the teacher or professional to know!
✅ For students with executive functioning and organizational difficulties, consider color coding academics and aligning the colors by binders, notebooks and folders. For example, green is for science; create a green binder, green spiral notebook and green folder so the student can quickly grab the correct supplies needed for the class! We used green for science, blue for history, black for comm arts/ELA, red for math, etc. We started this in sixth grade and my son (attending college this fall!) still uses this same color system to this day!
✅ Start the year off positively with the teacher (both special ed and each regular education teacher). A small gift and a thank you note in advance of the year speaks volumes to your grateful heart for their hard work!
✅ Advocate for needs in person or over the phone; avoid email! Your care and concern comes through so much more through face-to-face/phone interactions and can get lost in the written text. Remember to avoid “why” questions which can evoke defensiveness from the listener!
✅ You are not alone! There are advocacy options to assist you if you are struggling with IEP or school-related issues. Consider Wisconsin FACETS, Wisconsin Coalition for Advocacy, Disability Rights Wisconsin and CESA.
Finally, take a deep breath and commit to a great year! You got this!