Summer has flown by and now it’s back to school, schedules, and stress. This is especially true if you have a student with a disability.
Typically the work we have to do around back to school time is at least double. Double the teachers, double the supplies, double the worries. That’s why we’ve created a back to school checklist to help you cover all the bases.
- “ALL ABOUT ME” LETTER: Send a one page introductory letter to your child’s school team so they have all the information they need to know aside from the IEP. This should include dietary restrictions, bathroom issues, how your child communicates, what soothes him or her, what might set your child off, medical needs, behavioral challenges. For a sample, check out the letter the Center for Family Involvement’s Jill Rose shared here: https://centerforfamilyinvolvementblog.org/2017/08/27/back-to-school-rituals-the-letter/ Be sure to keep it at one page, much longer and it likely won’t be read.
- MEET AND GREET: Schedule a casual, “get to know each other” meeting with the teachers within the first couple of weeks.
- REVISIT IEP: It is critical you look over your child’s IEP. Summer development surges and setbacks are both common. Make sure the document is up to date and every educator who needs to follow it has reviewed it. Schedule an IEP meeting if the document needs updating. It is helpful to wait a few weeks to let your child and his or her teachers settle into a routine so everyone has a chance to see where the student is.
- CHECK IN ON ACCOMODATIONS AND ADAPTATIONS: It’s an unfortunate reality that we will need to make sure our children have all the tools they need in the classroom every single school year. Don’t assume that just because he or she had it last year it will be in place again. There are hundreds of students. Teachers have been on vacation. They will need reminded of your child’s needs.
- SCHEDULE AN OBSERVATION: Check with the school about scheduling an observation. There is no better way to know how things are going then by sitting in as if you were a fly on a wall. Wait a few weeks to allow everyone to settle into the new routine.
- GIVE TRANSITIONING TIME: Going back to school can be hard for all students. It takes several days, even weeks to settle into a routine. For some students this transition period can take a month or two. Recognize that. Make sure the school understands that so they can practice patience and give students the support they need to get comfortable.
- SCHOOL SUPPLIES: When purchasing school supplies, be sure to get the adapted tools your child needs; and inform the school they are not to be shared. If you have money to spare, getting items the entire class needs such as tissues and disinfectant wipes can be extremely beneficial. Get input from your child’s therapists to see what tools are most effective in the classroom. And share with them what adaptations have proved successful at home.
- MAKE YOURSELF VISIBLE: Attend every school function possible. It is a great way to form positive relationships with teachers, administrators, and fellow parents. Open houses, concerts, even dropping in to join your child for lunch once in a while. Many parents swear by picking their children up when possible. It’s a great way to talk to teachers about the day-to-day happenings in the classroom. Just be considerate of their time, as your child is one of many students.
- OFFER TO HELP: If possible, volunteer to help in the child’s classroom whenever you can.
- PROVIDE CONTACT INFORMATION: Make sure the teachers, administrators, school nurse, and whomever that needs to has a way to reach you.
- DOCUMENT EVERYTHING: Email is a great way to communicate with the school team to ensure there is documentation for everything. If you have a conversation on a playground that seems important, follow up with an email summary outlining everything you discussed. Follow up. Be kind. Be persistent.
- CLASS PRESENATION: Consider a short presentation for your child’s classmates, which many parents find to be an effective tool to aid in friendship building. Be prepared for some tough questions from the kids in the class.
- BREATHE: Try to enjoy these years. They can be tough. But they can also be wonderful. And remember, you are not alone.