In this two-part series, Jennifer Grobe, Esq. of McAndrews Law Offices, P.C. reviews the first five tips for Preparing Your Child with Special Needs To Return To School
The great basketball coach, John Wooden, famously emphasized to his teams that “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.“ This wise statement holds true in many walks of life, and is particularly relevant for children with special needs as they return to school after the summer recess. While no one plan of action fits every child with special needs of all ages, some basic considerations are generally universal and are important to keep in mind as the school year approaches. In today’s segment we will provide our first five tips, to be followed shortly with our next five suggestions.
1) Take steps to visit the school with the child to become visually acclimated to the physical environment of the school. For most children, even if they are returning to the same school building as the previous year, classroom settings and the location of special classes are often new, and the better prepared and more acclimated the child can be, the better chance that a smooth transition to the school year will occur.
2) Make a copy of the child’s IEP or Service Plan for all professionals and place it in their mailboxes prior to the beginning of the school year. Create a one page cover sheet with the highest points of your child’s learning/behavior/social issues and the key interventions in the plan. Like a resume, this cover sheet of key points should be limited to one page to enhance readability for instructors as they begin their own busy school year. While all teachers are supposed to have access to these plans at the beginning of the school year, our experience is that the likelihood that they will be read are enhanced greatly if a copy is provided by the parent to the teacher in advance of the school year. Then ask the teacher(s) in an email or a personal note if you could have 10 to 15 minutes of their time in the second or third week of the school year to discuss your child’s most critical needs.
3) Visit the school’s website with your child. In today’s tech savvy world, schools expect parents to know what is included on the website, and the website often includes information which is not provided in paperwork to families and which is important to start the school year on solid footing.
4) Get your child on a “school sleep schedule“ in the week before school begins. Children frequently sleep late in the summer, often several hours beyond the time for the beginning of school. A sleep schedule cannot be turned on and off like a light switch, and needs to be managed/adjusted over the period of at least several days, and preferably at least a week, to ensure that the child will be reasonably alert at the beginning of the school year. The National Sleep Organization offers some great tips to help with the bedtime transition.
5) Start insisting on some reasonable breakfast every day in the week before school as the sleep schedule is adjusted. Numerable studies reflect the importance of children eating breakfast before beginning every school day, and failing to include this as an essential part of morning preparations misses a major opportunity to enhance learning. Check out these ideas for healthy breakfasts for kids.