This August, many children with Special Needs will be walking down the hall for the first time. For parents of these children, this can be overwhelming as well as exciting. Here are three steps to help parents of Special Need Children prepare for the first day of school.

School  Visit

school hallway

It can be overwhelming starting a new school. If you are the parent of a child with special needs, this can cause anxiety not only for you but the child as well.  Scheduling a visit at the school is an excellent idea. By planning a visit during the summer helps the child to see the school when it is less crowded. It is important for the child to walk down the hallways and class room to get a familiarity of the place.  This tour should include the cafeteria, the library, principal’s office, the nurse’s office as well as the classroom where the student will be if that is available at the time. If the child is switching classes, this schedule should be followed in order as this will be the child routine. Also, knowing where the closest bathroom is also essential.

Picture Schedules
If your child is a visual learner, creating a picture schedule may work.  If possible, two weeks before school starts, go to the school and take pictures of the school, school buses,  and facility. Arrange the pictures in subsequent events. This picture schedule will help the child with an understanding of their schedule in pictures.  This picture schedule can be used while in school.  For example, when to change classes, or when they should go to the bathroom.  The picture should prompt the question “After we do this,then we do this. ”

Supportive Staff.
No one knows children better than their parents. It is important the first week of school to get to know the teachers and supports who will be teaching your child. If your child has an Individual  Education Plan ( IEP) or 504 plan, ensure all parties have a copy of this so they can plan how to serve your child best.  The lines of communication for both sides should be open.  If your child has an aide in the class or a paraprofessional get to know them as well. If your child will need additional resources such as Speech, Occupational Therapy and or Behavioral Services, Speak up. Advocating for your children’s needs is essential to a successful school year.

Be involved

father and daughter doing homework

Parent Teacher Association ( PTA), the school bake sales, Booster Club, whatever activity there is which requires a parent interaction and participation, if you can be active in it, then do it. It shows you support your child’s education. This behavior indicates that this parent is active in their child’s life as well as education.  These activities can be used as social interaction with other parent’s whose child may have similar diagnose, as well as be a resource for additional information which parent who does not participate may not be aware.  Parents who are involved in their child’s education may also get more support. As the slogan goes, ” Membership does have its benefits.”

As a Social Worker who works with the Autistic Community, I often courage parents as well as teachers to encourage their children to be active in school. In school inclusion is imperative to all children and help build self – esteem, friendships and as well as confidence.

As the school year starts, it’s wise to have a plan when it comes to children and education,  If you follow these three steps, your child will be off to a good start. Here is to making this school year the best year.