Getting Ready for Back to School Season
Some tips and ideas to make the return to classes as smooth as possible
It is an unavoidable truth, we can deny it no longer: August won’t last forever. And with the return of September comes the return of classes. Whether you’re anxious about your child’s return to school or looking forward to a little more time alone, we’ve put together a few quick tips for making sure that back-to-school season goes as smoothly as possible for kids with developmental disabilities.
First things first: consult your Individualized Education Plan and be sure that you have a comprehensive understanding of the accommodations your child needs. The school should be given a copy of your IEP so they know what to expect, and ensure that you remain in contact with school staff. Ideally, all of this will be sorted well in advance, but it can’t hurt to double-check. And if your child’s needs have changed over the summer, it’s best to give the school notice in advance. Here in B.C. we also have local Inclusive Education Contacts that we can reach out to and consult; you can find the contact for your school district here.
Your child’s teacher has a big responsibility in helping to care for your child. It can be helpful to develop a connection with them built on mutual respect and trust. Accommodating your child’s needs is an ongoing process and dialogue between yourself and the school, so it doesn’t hurt to build that relationship. Let them know you’re available to talk!
A hundred little details are easy to miss going from grade to grade through school. The change from cubbies to lockers, for instance, requires the introduction of padlocks for many middle schools and high schools. Depending on the nature of your child’s disability, they may also need particular kinds of exercise-wear or equipment for physical education. Try to go step-by-step through your child’s expected day and notice the little details that add up, and as always, don’t hesitate to check with the school if you have questions they might be able to answer.
See the school
One of the key things a parent can do is try to familiarize their child with the school. In better times, that meant connecting with the school and getting permission to show your child around before the school year gets underway. This may not be possible with new COVID rules in place. What parents can do is collect as many pictures of the school as possible. Connect with administration to see if they can send pictures of the sort of classroom your child will be learning in. Hopefully, this can mitigate some stress over being somewhere new at the start of the year.
The workload of being a teacher tends to be pretty high, so once the school season gets going, they likely won’t have the time or energy to have frequent check-ins about your child’s progress. If, however, you can put together a quick and easy binder with easily filled-out questions about what your child did that day, that can be a much easier task for their teachers. Some questions to include: Did my child eat their lunch today? What areas were they excelling in? What areas were they struggling with? Did they complete all their assigned homework?
This binder can go back and forth between you and your child’s teachers, and give an easy means of communicating these details.
Talk about it with your child…a lot
Maintaining a positive and happy attitude in your home helps create an atmosphere of acceptance for your child. Talk about all the things they’re going to do and the people they will meet. Go over all the aspects of how they’re going to get to and from school.
Hopefully this has given you some ideas for making this back-to-school season as smooth as possible. It can be a stressful time, and there’s lots to do, but involving your child in the process can help to reassure them that it isn’t an insurmountable obstacle. Good luck!