Preparing for back-to-school
The worst thing is the guilt, some say. Many parents of children with special needs dread the six week’s holiday in the summer. The fear of six weeks with little rest and little time to yourself. However, this is one of those moments when it is perfectly normal to worry about having to care for your children, uninterrupted, for the longest time since they were a baby. The addition of the words “special needs” doesn’t in this case make parents special in the dread of the summer holidays.
However, distinct to parents of special needs is the dread of the return to school at the end of the summer holidays. A new school year means a new teacher, a new classroom, a new routine, potentially even a new school. The concern that your child’s education may suddenly come tumbling down is a perfectly normal worry. So, how can you help your child transition into the new school year?
Invest time in transition
It is best to begin planning the move of class, teacher or school long before the summer holidays start. As a parent, you may wish to take control of the transition from June onwards, requesting that your child is slowly introduced to the new environment and the new personnel. Hopefully an assistant or helper will move with your child but, if not, meeting new people whilst the old ones are still in place really helps build trust.
If you have reached August and this has not happened, don’t worry. Visit the school and ask on-site staff if you can access the new classroom. This will take some of the mystery away from the new school year. If possible, photograph the classroom and look at them with your child at home. Then, on the first day, speak to the teacher and make sure the introduction between child and teacher is smooth.
Some simple tips
The first tip is to be positive about the return to school but to treat this as a normal part of the routine. The temptation might be to be overly positive and tell your child how bright they are to move up to this new class, how amazing they must have been to be given this reward. No matter how well-meaning this cheerleading is, it is likely to cause a good deal of anxiety in your special needs child. They might not feel up to this new challenge and may start to dread having to be better than they were last year. Use a lot of non-verbal behaviour to demonstrate your lack of concern and your acceptance that this is completely normal within your routine.
Finally, invest in equipment that will help your child. A series of zipper wallets hole punched into a ring binder will give your child one thing to remember. All the books or worksheets can be placed in the right coloured pocket and will be easy to sort through when your child returns home.
The good news is you know your child will settle into new practices within a few weeks and this will become the new normal. This time too will pass and a calm routine with ensue.