The first week of September is over, your child's back in school, getting familiar with their environment, and adjusting to their new schedule. The switch from summer to school is a major transition for children with developmental disabilities, and the first few weeks can be quite difficult for them as they are getting into the swing of things. There are a number of little things you can do as a parent to help make sure that a positive association is being formed with going to school.
The following recommendations are generally quite beneficial, but the specific strategies you implement will vary depending on your child's personality and diagnoses.
1. Pack sensory aids
Based on your child’s specific sensory needs and coping strategies, it may be helpful to have aids such as fidget spinners, chewing gum, stress balls, noise cancelling headphones or even a piece of yarn on your checklist when packing your child’s schoolbag.
2. Adjust arrival and departure times
The before and after hallway hustle can be a stimulus overload for many children. If possible try staggering their arrival and departure from the school so that they can avoid crowded hallways, loud announcements, and ringing bells. Small accommodations like these make the world of difference.
3. Plan your morning routine
In the mornings, time your child’s wakeup so that there isn’t a prolonged wait from when they are ready to when they leave. For many, a wait between 7:30am and 8:00am is enough of a delay to cause anxiety and stress.
4. Stock up on medications and supplies
Communicate with your child’s school to ensure any medications and supplies are stocked up, on hand, and ready for your child.
5. Use technology as a positive reinforcement
Help you child to build a connection with going to school and the positive reinforcement of video games. For instance, using verbal and visual cues to associate the bus home from school with their Xbox.
These tips will be beneficial for your child, but the best thing you can do is make sure there is great communication between you, your school, and your agency. Active communication and a common understanding of your child’s IPP (Individual Program Plan) is necessary to make sure they are comfortable, cared for, and integrated appropriately into their classrooms.
The transition for back to school is rarely without road bumps, and we encourage parents not to feel overwhelmed or frustrated during the process. It can take a few weeks for your child to become comfortable and adjusted to their new routine. We wish you all the best for the school year!