A No-stress Back to School Experience

Some important information from Cindy Ziobrowski, MS Ed.

Back to school time is a transition, and can be stressful for any child, particularly for some children with disabilities. In most circumstances, there are many things parents can do to make the transition less stressful. I’ve created a ‘to do’ list to help you begin the new school year on a positive note.

1)     Extended year program. Did your child attend an EYP or receive other instruction or services over the summer? I advise you to consider whether your child’s needs have changed over the summer in such a way that the District may need to reconsider what it has offered and will provide. For example, if your child attended an intensive remediation program that was private or outside of the school district, he/she may have made such progress that the goals written last year are no longer appropriate. Progress (or regression) may be an important consideration in many areas after a summer program, including both academics and non-academics.

2)      Prime your child for the school year. I think it’s a great strategy! Talk to your child about what to expect, focusing on the positive aspects. Your child will get their first impressions of school from you. If your child responds well to social stories, make one using pictures from their school. If your child is a middle or high schooler make sure to get a copy of the class schedule, walk the classes, as well as visit the lunchroom, cafeteria, gym, and rest rooms before the first day. It will help ease stress if your child has already become acquainted with the layout of the school. Also, some schools have great web sites. If you know your child’s teacher(s), reviewing their site might relieve some anxiety.

3)      Give the teacher your child’s IEP: Yes, your child’s IEP will be included in his/her school file. Yes, many teachers read these files in advance of the new school year, and many even meet with special educators or support personnel to prepare for any accommodations your child requires. But, this is not always the case. Teachers get busy, and you don’t want your child’s services to be the thing that gets left off of the to-do list. I suggest making a photocopy of your child’s IEP, and handing it to their new teacher on the first day or even a week ahead of time. If they have already read it, it can’t hurt to give them the opportunity to read it again.

4)      Also, give teachers a cheat sheet. Even giving the teacher a fresh photocopy of your child’s IEP does not guarantee that reading it won’t get stuck on the bottom of their stack of to-dos. It’s the beginning of a new school year! So make it simple; point them exactly where you want them to go. The important part of the IEP for the teacher from the VERY FIRST DAY is your child’s modifications and accommodations. I recommend  making a little list of these (sit student in front of room; extra time on independent tasks; repeated instructions; written directions; frequent bathroom breaks; etc.) and attach it to the front of the IEP copy. The teacher can make sure your child gets the accommodations to which they are entitled from minute one.

5)     Schedule a team meeting. I recommend scheduling a meeting with your new team as soon as possible. Schools may be reluctant to accommodate this because they have ‘nothing to report’. But this meeting is a time for you to share a “Snapshot of My Child”/”Day in the Life” letter for the team. Creating a synopsis of who your child is offers the team a quick overview of what she/he can expect and what works best for him/her.  Be sure to include a photo of your child. It is as important to prepare your team as it is your child.  It also allows you to know your child’s schedule for related services and/or resource room support.  You are your child’s strongest advocate, so take this opportunity to start of the school year right!

New England Tutors is here for all your transition situations; new school, new town, new IEP.  Whatever your need we have the specialists, educators and advocates to guide you to your goal.

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