Summer can be a mixed bag for special needs children and their parents. For some the relief from academic and social demands makes for a welcome and relaxing break. For others the loss of the school routine and supports can result in a trying and difficult time. But, for all transitioning back to a new school year presents a serious challenge. How you use the last weeks of summer can make the difference between a “honeymoon” return and a stressful series of disasters. So what can you do to ease the transition back-to-school for you and your child? Here are some great strategies for a successful start.
- Get Organized – Plan the transition, and eliminate surprises. Schedule out the next few weeks and let your child know what to expect. Don’t be the source of your own transition problems.
- Ease in – Start shifting bedtimes and wake-up by 10 minutes a day moving towards a sustainable school year routine.
- Make a Transition Book or Story – Visit your child’s school and take photographs of what they will encounter through their day. The school bus, school, classroom, playground, and other places (Speech or OT room, Office, Nurse, etc
- Get Your Supplies Early – Back-to-school shopping can be stressful and crowded. Get a jump on it). Kids pick up on parent’s stress, so make it easy on them by making it easy on yourself (See also our Back to School Shopping Guide).
- Visit – Take your child to school and go through the locations they will visit during the day. You could go early and set it up like a scavenger hunt, or other game. Let them become familiar with the setting without the chaos of hundreds of other children. This could be combined with making your transition book. Either use the book as your child’s guide or let your child participate in taking the pictures and putting together their own guide.
- Get After School Set – Plan for after school activities to make the most of the end of summer. Enroll early in after school programs, classes, or social groups.
- Get Stuff Done – Breaking up the school routine is disruptive, so take advantage of the end of summer for well-child checkups, dentists visits, and other appointments that often pull kids out of school.
- Start Homework Time – Begin the practice of setting a time and place aside for work after school. This can start with art or craft projects, and move to reading, outdoor science “adventures” and more challenging activities as you get closer to the start of school.
- Take Advantage of Orientation – If your school offers opportunities to visit the school or meet the teachers, take advantage of the chance to start establishing a relationship with their teacher (For both you and your child).
- Arrange Transportation – Make sure everything is set to get your child to and from school. Plan on being early for the first week or so. Not seeing a parent when released for pick up can trigger anxiety.
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