Here on the West Coast, public schools are already in session. On the East Coast, public schools traditionally start after Labor Day. Either way, if you are a parent of a special needs child, one thing that may be top of mind is how to get your child ready to go back to school. Here are 5 tips from experts in childhood development.
In his new book, “It’ So Hard to Be Your Friend,” author Rick Lavoie, M.Ed. says that parents of special needs as well “typically developing”, as he calls it, children need to approach the school year with this idea in mind: “prepare the situation for the child, and the child for the situation.”
Here are his 5 tips to help you get your child ready to go back to school:
Listen to Your Child’s Feelings. When your child shows any anxiety about going back to school, the worst thing you can do is brush it off with a “don’t worry about it” response. According to Dr. Lavoie, slowly bring up the idea of going back to school with your child to allow your child time to soak it in and you as a parent time to deal with any insecurities that may arise.
Team Up With The School Staff. Aside from your child’s individual education plan, prepare a short and straightforward dossier to help teachers understands your child’s strengths and challenge areas. Make sure to include specific tips in how to react to certain situations. This dossier will help teachers respond smoothly when your child acts nervous or sad and according to Lavoie, teachers will appreciate the gesture.
Get Your Child Involved As Much As Possible. Remember you will not be in the classroom with your child at school, so the best thing you can do it is allow he or she to take the reigns on all back to school activities. For example, take your kids back to school shopping for supplies and encourage he or she to choose their own outfit. Another idea is visiting their school early as possible to allow him or her to get use to their new classroom. For children participating in online speech therapy, have your child prepare their study area at home away from any distractions.
Start Prioritizing and Organizing. Getting used to a new routine, especially after the “lazy hours” of summer, is a challenge for any child. For children participating in speech therapy online, keeping track of homework and following a proper study schedule is important for progress. Help him or her by creating a large family calendar of family events, school holidays, and school activities.
Help Your Child Handle Anxiety and Cope. “Stress can be a very difficult feeling to describe, but we all know that it can bring big trouble,” says Dr. Lavoie. What he suggests is helping your child understand when they’re feeling stressed by encouraging him or her to pay attention to their internal “stress beaker,” a container that should never get so full that it overflows. Parents should often ask their child, “how’s your beaker today?” You will be surprised to learn how a simple question can reduce a child’s stress level.
Finally, Dr. Lavoie encourages parents to pay attention to their own “stress beaker.” As a parent, your child feeds off your positivity and encouragement and it is important to make sure you are prepared as well.