While there’s still plenty of time for celebrating summer, the new school year is just around the corner! Avoiding stress in the back-to-school season can be difficult for any parent, but the stress can easily increase when you have children with special needs. As a law office dedicated to the wellbeing of families with special needs children, we’ve compiled some tips suggested by experts on making this the best back-to-school yet!
- Organize! Organize! Paperwork tends to get out of control. But keeping documents, lists, and information organized will not only help you as a parent avoid unnecessary stress, but can also influence how your child feels about this upcoming school year. Organization helps bring an atmosphere of clear expectations, stability, and consistency.
- Review Your Child’s Current IEP. Your child’s Individualized Education Plan is the cornerstone of your child’s educational, notes LD Online. A clear understanding of your child’s IEP can help ensure that their upcoming school program will be meeting their needs as much as possible. Check the date when the IEP expires and if your child qualifies for reevaluation this year. Above all, consider whether the IEP still fits your child’s needs. If in doubt, inquire with the school about an IEP review meeting.
- Take Steps to Relieve Anxiety. Going back to school can lead to anticipation, questions, and anxiety for your child. Just talking through what to expect in the upcoming year can help calm a lot of back-to-school anxiety or “jitters.” LD Online suggests taking time with your child to discuss the exciting classes, activities, and events that the new school year will hold, and the opportunities they have to participate, learn, grow, have fun, and make friends. If your child is attending a new school this year, schedule a visit before school starts if possible. Special Needs Alliance suggests going with your child to locate new classrooms, as well as the library, cafeteria, gym and restrooms before the first day of school. It might also be a good idea to practice opening your child’s locker with your child, and to go together to meet the school staff and the therapy team, according to Special Needs Alliance.
- Find a Routine and Stick To It! Routines can reduce anxiety and stress and help your child manage expectations on a daily basis. Make sure to discuss with your child the changes that might change from past routines, and what your child can expect every day. You might find it helpful to start implementing your child’s new routine well before the school year even starts, as a way for your child to practice the new routine and get comfortable with it, and get answers to questions ahead of time.
- Purchase Appropriate Supplies. Back-to-school advertisements usually feature clothes and fun backpacks, but your special needs child might need some additional supplies for a successful and stress-free school year. Special Needs Alliance recommends focusing on items that will help your child stay organized. Talk to therapists about the best type of school supplies for your child – such as certain types of pencils – and make sure you pick these items up before classes start, including extras for use at home. Be willing to get insight from experts and think outside the box: some children do better with keys versus combination locks for their locker, and bean bag seat cushions work well for some children who have trouble sitting still.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help or Push Back. It’s okay if you feel overwhelmed about the upcoming school year. Ask your school for resources and assistance. Talk to teachers about a successful school-home education partnership. Let teachers and school staff know that you’re on their side and willing to work with them. Advocate for a successful school year and see cooperative, caring teachers and school staff as your support system. And don’t be afraid to push back when you feel that your child isn’t getting the support that they need and deserve. Many families struggle with injustices when it comes to securing the special needs education that’s best for their child.
- Understand Your Child’s Rights! Your child’s rights to equal education opportunities are protected by law. If you feel that you child isn’t getting the education they need, or if your child is facing discrimination in any way, it’s time for a change! Stuart M. Nachbar, Esq. is New Jersey’s caring, compassion, and highly qualified attorney for special needs law. Call (973) 233 4049 or send a message online.
Tel: 973) 567-0954