The First Day Of School: What You Need To Know To Be Prepared
The first day of school for any child can be one filled with anticipation, anxiety, excitement and the unknown. Especially for a child with autism. Parents are not immune to these feelings as well, as it is a huge step for the whole family. With that said, there are many things to keep in mind when sending your child off to school that only will help with all of the feelings above but will make the transition as seamless as possible.
1. To find out what is available at the school where you plan on sending your child, plan a visit and ask a lot of questions of administrators, teachers, therapist and other parents. Ask the district what different learning styles are available. Find out if the teachers have flexibility when it comes to helping kids with different learning styles in order to understand what is being taught.
2. Always focus on the positive, specifically the skills that your child has mastered.
3. Find a support group by contacting other parents who are in the same situation as you are. Share your triumphs and your failures. You may find out that you are not alone in this regard and that other parents have the same feelings and trepidation’s you have.
4. Send a resume of your child to the administrators, teachers, and therapists. This may sound strange, but it will give insight to staff and administrators about your child. List your child’s interests and things that make him/her different. Also, list some words that you would use to describe your child as well as the difficulties he/she has. Listing tasks that he/she has difficulty in the past but have mastered at this point should also be highlighted. This resume serves as a bridge for the school to get to know your child before he/she walks through the doors on the first day. It allows the staff to get a “heads up” in regards to your child which is very much appreciated. By having this knowledge, it helps prepare the staff better for welcoming your child into school which, in turn, makes the transition far easier for your child and for you.
Prepare your child over the summer by choosing activities that match your child’s level. If you do not, it will only create frustration. You want your child to be involved in an activity that will build self-esteem.
It is important to remember that special needs children do not misbehave on purpose. Sometimes they have problems carrying out a task because they have too much energy or they feel frustrated and cannot handle the task at that moment. Be patient and let them know that you are proud of their efforts. One of the most important things to keep in mind regarding all children is that they want to feel worthwhile and they want to please you as a parent.
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Always encourage! These feelings also resonate with school and everything they do as well as everyone they meet and have social contact with. In preparation for school, work on tasks your child excels at and communicate this to the school staff so they can keep that information in their “bag of tricks.” Make sure whatever activity you choose matches your child’s level. If a child is not having a good day, an opportunity for the child to show off what they excel at can be a tremendous turning point in the day, attitude and cooperation level.
Always keep a record of your child’s achievements. You will access that list more than you can possibly imagine. Whether it is to communicate to a teacher, therapist or an extracurricular activity supervisor; it will be called upon again and again. This will reduce any anxiety that your child may feel about going to school as well any anxiety that you feel as a parent.
On the first day of school, make sure everything is in place:
If there are dietary or medication needs, make sure you have communicated this to your child’s teacher as well as administration. Perhaps your child needs a quieter place to eat lunch other than the lunch room where it is extremely noisy with a great deal of stimulation.
1. Communication is key for your child. Since many children cannot recall in regards to their day, you must have procedures in place to find out what type of a day he/she had, where difficulties lay, and how often both yourself and staff will speak. A communication log is a perfect way to address this. Not only does it allow for the parent to communicate to the school but it creates a high level of accountability.
2. After your child’s first day, make sure to congratulate him/her and say how proud you are. Always, keep the lines of communication open between yourself, staff and administrators. This way you will always be in the loop as to whether or not changes need to be made or perhaps just minor “tweaks” here and there.
3. Most importantly, have a great school year. Your child has many accomplishments coming his/her way. What your child is capable of is astounding. Be in awe of who your child is and what he/she can bring to this world. Let your child shine, foster that and appreciate every accomplishment. It is well deserved!
Ilene B. Miller, MS Ed is an Educational Consultant and Special Needs Advocate for families of children with special needs. She works with families nationwide to secure the support services their school district isn’t providing but should. She goes beyond the IEP to ensure children thrive as their needs change. If you need immediate insight into where you stand with your child’s school, book a one-time Open Opportunity Session to get an instant analysis and course of action to get your son or daughter on the right track.
This article was featured in Issue 78 – Back to School Success