Are your summer months marred by a child’s anxious questions about his next school term? Is the first day of school marked by tears and meltdowns? Is the Fall term at school a failure due to stomach aches and headaches resulting in many absent days? What can parents do to make the transition to a new school year or a new grade easier for the child and themselves? Back to school is always a big transition because your child needs to cope with a new teacher, more academic demands and probably a changing social circle. Timely preparation can make all the difference your child needs.
How to Get to Know the Teacher, the School and Classroom Routines Before the New School Year Begins?
Spring is the time to start preparing your child for September school terms. Find out as soon as possible who your child’s teachers will be and schedule a meeting so your child can meet them. Take this opportunity in school to visit the classroom, music room, washrooms, gymnasium, and locker rooms. Go over the lunch routine and visit the cafeteria. Get permission to use the school playground to familiarize your child with the dreaded lunch break activities.
If your child will be using the school bus, check out the bus stop at home and at school. Walk through the arrival-by-bus-routine at school, finding the classroom, the clothes’ hook or locker, the routine for shoes, where the school bag and lunch break snack go… go over everything because sometimes it is these LITTLE things that cause stress for your child.
If your child will need a “safe person” or “safe room”, this school visit will be the time to show your child and explain the support already in place for him.
Also ask for the names of a few students who will be in the same class so you can arrange play dates during the summer. This way your child will already have a few friends to start the year well. Now with many privacy regulations the school may not be able to give you a class list but with a little detective work you might find out through other parents who will be in the same class.
Take photos of all these areas and ask permission to take photos of the teachers. These photos can then be used in Social Stories or Visual Schedules you can write and start using in summer and throughout the year.
If you cannot take photos, locate a school year book because most likely photos of the school staff will be in it. Then “introduce” all school staff that your child will have to deal with. Learn their names and the role they have in helping your child. Don’t forget the bus drivers, secretaries, and school nurse!
Many teachers have write-ups with their classroom routines and rules so ask to have this. When the time is right, perhaps during the summer, include in the Social Stories these classroom routines so that it will make your child understand what will be asked of him in class.
Facilitate your child’s bonding with the teacher by talking about her/him often. Make your child understand the teacher is probably a parent too and knows about children and how to help them. Explaining to a worried child that teachers take many courses about how to help children may comfort him.
Ask the classroom teacher what books she can suggest for your child to read during the summer that will be helpful for the coming year. Do NOT read the books that will be read in class because your child will become bored and worst yet will want to tell the class about the story being read. All the questions to develop creativity asked while reading books will be lost on your child who already knows “what will happen next”.
Your child needs to feel secure and know that his parents can be easily reached in an emergency. The first day of school get your child involved in writing a note to his teacher with all contact numbers where his parents can be reached. Let him personally bring the note to the teacher. If possible be with your child when the note is presented and by your comments to the teacher make your child feel safe in knowing that the school can reach you easily.
Some children’s anxiety can be lessen if they have a photo of family members tucked in their pocket or school bag. Or let them have a familiar item like KidCompanions Chewelry or SentioCHEWS that makes them feel secure like their ‘favorite blanky’ did when they were toddlers. These chew necklaces are made in Canada, sourced in Canada and the US, sold to all corners of the world, and can be seen at www.kidcompanions.com
How Can the Teacher Get to Know Your Child
Have a carefully written summary about your child and your child’s needs. Entitle it and sign it giving the school permission to share information about your child to a substitute teacher. Give this summary to his new September teacher(s) in the Spring so she/they can be aware of your child’s needs and might read up on it during summer. In case it gets misplaced give another copy in the Fall when school starts. Always be proactive and leave nothing to chance!
If you have a good book about your child’s special needs or a picture book for the class, you could give it to the teacher or at least have the titles written down in the summary about your child. Offer to come to class and talk about the special needs of children in general and include in the discussion the needs of your child. These past few years many books have been published to explain to children what it is like growing up with autism, sensory processing disorder, Down syndrome, Tourette syndrome, learning disabilities, etc. Links to the reviews of some of these picture books are below.
Some parents have their child write a letter, dictate a letter the parents write or even give a video of their child to the teacher so she can get to know your child before the new school year begins… preparation works both ways and if done right and at the right time it can make Back to School easier for all.
What do you do to prepare your child for the next school term? Please share your strategies so other parents will know what to do.
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