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Exceptional Lives Team
on
August 23, 2023

Special Education Checklist: The back-to-school edition

The Special Education checklist for back to school season can feel overwhelming. Here are 4 ways to make it easier.

If you have a child with disabilities or learning difficulties, you know that getting ready for back-to-school season looks a little different. Like many families, we need to help our child adjust to earlier bedtimes, replace the backpack that looks like it went through a war zone, and schedule the haircuts and dentist appointments. Our Special Education checklist includes some of our team’s favorite tips to help you get your child ready and ease the stress on your whole family.

#1: Manage your child’s back-to-school anxiety

  • Observe your child’s moods and behavior. Make time for them to ask questions. Listen to their worries without trying to solve everything.
  • Help them identify some things that make them feel good – dancing, silliness, or a special memory they can tap into when they feel stressed.
  • Remind them of the things they like about school. Maybe it’s recess, or seeing their friends every day, or a funny teacher.
  • Connect! Watch a movie together, snuggle, play a game, or take a walk. Even just a few moments of undivided attention calms the central nervous system (and yes, we mean yours too).

#2: Build a relationship with your child’s teacher

  • Write a letter to your child’s teacher. Tell them about what your child needs to be successful, but also about who your child IS: their favorite foods, what makes them laugh, and the haircut he gave himself this summer when you left the room (it was only for 5 minutes!)
  • Find out the best way to communicate with your child’s teacher regularly. It’s so important for the teacher to know when something is going on at home or even if your child didn’t sleep well one night. And the teacher can share information that will help you support your child at home.

#3: Talk through the transitions with your child

Transition times can be the most difficult for kids. It might be helpful to create visual supports to talk about schedule, new routines, and expectations with your child. Use social stories, photos, or conversation to show what the new schedule will look like. You may want to address:

  • How they will get to school. Will it be a new school bus? A different time or a new bus stop? Maybe they walk to school this year – you can walk the route together beforehand.
  • How they will get home from school. Maybe your child will have after-school activities or be picked up by a friend or a sitter.
  • What lunchtime will look like. Can they choose their seat, or is it assigned? Who will they sit with? Will they eat school lunch or bring their favorite comfort food from home?

#4: Support learning at home

  • Make time for your child to rest AND to be physically active when they get home. School is a long day and their brains and bodies need a break.
  • Set up a quiet work space that meets your child’s physical needs – this might include a bouncy ball to sit on or small fidget toys to help them concentrate.
  • Build in routines that support reading and other areas where your child might need a little extra help.

What else is on your Special Education checklist for back-to-school season? Let us know what’s worked for you.

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