The transition from summer to the new school year can be difficult for any child. It definitely is for my 8-year-old special-needs child, Lia, so my husband and I have tried a lot of techniques and have found some things that work. We’ve also come across some great ideas from other parents. Keep in mind that not all of these suggestions or ideas will work for you, but it’s worth a try for kiddos that struggle getting back into the school routine every year.
Keep it low-key – If you are planning to take some time off before school starts, do some low-key activities rather than high energy, wild vacations. This could ease the child’s transition.
-Physicals and immunizations – Doctors’ offices get very busy at this time of the year, so schedule visits early.
-Supplies and school clothes – Don’t wait until the last minute to shop! Having spent many years in retail I know firsthand that back to school shopping is one of the busiest and most profitable for retailers. There are some great sales right now! Having said that Lia HATES shopping! I suggest having a well thought out list handy with all your back-to-school needs. When you are on your way to work, on your lunch hour or on your way to the gym, stop quickly to pick up those needed items right then and there!
-Picture schedules – Create a picture schedule of daily routines. This will let your kid know what to expect throughout the day. Include dressing, grooming, eating, bus rides, school, teacher and aide pictures. If you have therapy after school or you have to pick up your kiddo early, make sure you include this in the picture schedule as well.
-Dressing routine – Label five stacking bins Monday through Friday with an outfit for each day. Let your child pick the outfits if able. This will give her a sense of involvement and ownership.
-Bed time – Ease your kiddos into their school bedtime schedules. It’s not easy! Limit screen time at least an hour before retiring for the evening. Take long baths to relax (Epsom salts, lavender oils, favorite tub toys, etc.). If your kids have been going to bed late all summer then start their bedtime transition about a week before school starts by moving up their bedtime routine anywhere from 10 to 15 mins earlier each night and wake them 10 to 15 mins earlier each morning.
-School bus - Make sure you know the bus company's name, phone, route number and pick-up time! Once you get the confirmation card in the mail call the bus company to confirm this information a couple of days before school starts. Times may change and you may not be updated. This has been known to happen!
-Teacher and aides - Get to know the staff in your child’s class as well as the office. Make sure you have the teacher's email address and phone number. Be sure to let them know what type of summer you have had and the current situation with transition, tantrums, therapies, or anything you are currently working on (life skills, behavior modifications, etc.).
Lastly, I always suggest getting involved in the school. Join the LSC or “friends of….” committee to get to know other parents/teachers and principals. You want to get to know as many people as possible in case you come across any concerns or issues. This also creates a network of support for you child.
Remember to maintain a positive attitude about summer ending and school beginning. Let your child know the new school year will lead to seeing old friends and hopefully making new ones.
Here’s to a wonderful and successful school year!
How to advocate for your special-needs child in CPS
Surviving summer with your special-needs child
IEP 101 (video)