Back to school can be an anxiety-provoking time for parents under the best of circumstances but when you're the parent of a child with special needs, you not only have to ensure your kids have the right clothes and supplies, but you have to make sure they have the right program in place, too.
Here are some tips to help make sure you and the school are ready for your child to go back to school.
1. Look over your child's current Individualized Education Plan.
If your child with special needs receives special education services, then they have an Individualized Education Plan outlining their needs, academic goals, and services needed to meet those goals. Before school starts is the time to make sure you recall all the services and accommodations your child's IEP has in place. If you can't find a current copy, get in touch with the school or the district's special education office to request a copy.
2. Double-check all the pieces of the IEP are in place.
Once you're up-to-date on what your child's plan says, it's time to check in and make sure all the services will be provided this school year. Reach out to your child's case manager or the school's IEP coordinator and ask specifically how the accommodations and services will be implemented. After all, if parents do not stand up for their child's IEP, who will?
OK, so what next?
3. Meet your child's new teachers and tell them about your child.
Many kids with special needs have some quirks that teachers ought to know about, but your child also has wonderful things about them that the teacher should know about, too.
Make a point to sit down with or schedule a conference call with your child's new teachers to tell them the good things and the not-so-good things they need to know about your child. Reading a child's file isn't the same as learning about them from someone who knows them.
4. Ensure that transportation is set up.
Special transportation is frequently a service on an IEP, meaning the school will provide transportation other than the regular bus to get your child to her school or special education program.
If you haven't heard yet, check in with the bus company or special education office to get the details about where and when your child will be picked up. Then you can do a "run-through" to make sure your child understands the routine.
5. Organize and reorganize activities and therapy appointments.
You may have changed your child's schedule around for the Summer but before school starts it's time to start planning a more school-hour-friendly routine. Talk to your child's service providers, get after-school care or activities set up, and try to start the new routine a few weeks before school so it's an easier transition for your child.
6. Take your child to tour the school.
This is really only necessary if your child is going to be in a new school this year or is having a hard time remembering the layout of his school. But if a tour will ease their anxiety, call the school and set one up.
7. Start a new communication notebook.
Sending a communication notebook to and from school with your child can help you and the teachers keep on top of what's happening with your child. It's a great way to stop playing phone tag with the school and let them know if your child is having a rough day.
It's also a good idea to start a new log to keep track of phone calls about your child; you just need to keep track of who you spoke to when and for what reason.
8. Go back-to-school shopping early.
If your child is anything like my child with special needs, who has Asperger syndrome, then they can become very particular about clothing and supplies. They have to feel and look just right. Plus, they get overwhelmed in crowded stores.
Now's the time to shop; you'll not only avoid the rush, but you also have some time to return clothes that are uncomfortable for some elusive reason or notebooks that are the absolute wrong color.