Getting ready for a new school year is stressful for most children, but it can be especially difficult for a child with special needs. Transitioning to a school schedule is a challenge, as is making sure a special-needs child receives the attention they need from the school staff. Fortunately, there are things that you can do as a parent to make the transition much more manageable.
Being a parent of a child in school means keeping track of lots of paperwork. You need to know about things such as school field trips, parent-teacher conferences, and anything else that will require your involvement. As a parent of a special-needs child, you will also have to gather documentation on your child’s needs for their school. This may include having an individualized education program, or IEP, for your child. Work closely with the school staff to review and implement this plan, and make sure that it is shared with the right staff members.
Most young children won’t see the “big picture” when it comes to their education, and that goes double for those with special needs. What they can understand better is short-term goals such as completing one assignment on time or even just being able to get ready for one school day. The goals you set will depend on your child and their capabilities, but try to keep them short-term and straightforward if you really want to see positive results.
Visiting a new school before your child attends is always a great idea, and it is particularly beneficial if your child has special needs. Many special-needs children thrive on structure and routine, and suddenly disrupting their current routine can cause a lot of problems. By taking them on a tour of their new school and allowing them to meet their teachers, you can help ease them into their new schedule when the new school year begins. It’s also best to schedule this tour when the previous school year is over or right before the next year is beginning since there won’t be as many staff members of students to overwhelm your child.
Above all else, the most important thing you can do when preparing a child for school is to be patient. Transitioning from a months-long period of no school to spending all day in classrooms is hard for any young child. There may be tantrums, meltdowns, and other setbacks during the transition, so be patient with your child. They will adjust to their new schedule on time and discover that going to school can be a positive experience.
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