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Back-to-School Tips for Unique Students and their Parents


Love it or hate it, back-to-school time is here again. All parents feel a little nervous when their child begins a new school year, and most kids do too. There are many unknowns in store during the first days and weeks of a new school year. For children who have special needs and their parents, a new school year brings a whole different level of challenges. We hope our tips, from a mom who has “been there,” will help you feel more prepared for the year ahead.

1 – Meet your child’s teachers: This is a must for the first week of school, especially if your child is in elementary school. A face-to-face meeting is so helpful for both you and the teacher. Ask the teacher how you can be helpful in supporting your child in the classroom. Also ask if you may set up a time, such as a phone call after school hours, to help the teacher know your child’s unique needs.

2 – Re-connect with previous teachers: If your child is continuing at the same school as last year, it is helpful to ask the previous year’s teachers to meet with your child’s new teacher. Often, they really know how to work with your child in a classroom setting and can give helpful advice, teacher to teacher.

3 – Review before and after-school routines: It’s a great idea to review routines and expectations with all children returning to school. For children on the autism spectrum or those with intellectual disabilities, having a set schedule is a real key to success. Make and use a picture or visual schedule if needed.

4 – Utilize a communication log:  A communication log is a place, like a binder or a computer file, where you keep track of every instance you communicated with the school or the school communicated with you about your child. You will want to log the date, time, names, and details of the communication in the log. Include notes home, copies of emails, etc. This will make following up on matters much easier.

5 – Organize paperwork: School paperwork can get out of hand quickly, especially if you have more than one child. Set up a system for organizing all that paperwork, separated by child. Use a family calendar to record dates of school conferences, performances, and other special events.

6 – Plan for the next IEP meeting: It’s never too early to begin thinking ahead to the next IEP meeting. The good news is that using a communication log and an organized paperwork system will help you be ready. Keep notes on your child’s progress towards IEP goals. If your child is performing poorly in a class, don’t wait until the next scheduled IEP meeting to discuss it with your child’s support team at school. Parents have the right to request an IEP meeting at any time during the school year.

7 – Expect a few meltdowns: Transitioning to a new school routine, no matter how well prepared you and your child are, is probably going to trigger a few meltdowns for your child. Older children may come home and display aggressive behavior as a way to express their frustration with the day’s challenges. Usually this resolves within a few weeks. Remain positive as much as possible. Talk with your child’s doctor if challenging behavior is an ongoing problem.

8 – Make sure your child gets enough sleep: A tired child is not going to learn or behave as well as one who is rested. Establish (or re-establish) good bedtime and sleeping routines. A generally accepted rule is that children ages 6-12 need about 10-11 hours of sleep and teens need 8-10 hours. The National Sleep Foundation has published this chart to help parents know how much sleep each age group needs.

From All About Therapy for Kids in the Triangle area of North Carolina, best wishes for a successful school year! Any time you need in-home or natural environment Occupational Therapy treatment for your child, please call us at (919) 448-6018.

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