September is the start of the new school year and, for almost all students, a fresh start with a new teacher. It is an exciting time as students anticipate new classmates, a new classroom and the chance to see their friends again. Many students are also very nervous about whether they will like their teacher(s), how hard the work will be, and if they will make new friends.
Parents are also excited for their child’s fresh start and nervous about whether the services and supports your child needs will be in place. Parents can help to reduce the child’s stress (and their own) by planning ahead and establishing a positive relationship with the classroom teacher and the school.
Helping Your Child get Ready for School:
- Talk positively about school and remind the child what they liked last year.
- Ask questions to find out what your child is looking forward to and what might be worrying them. Provide reassurance.
- Walk to school or visit the school grounds before school starts to remind them about the route, the layout and where they will be lining up or entering the school this year. If the child travels to school by bus, check the pick up and drop off locations.
Help your child organize their school day.
- Designate a place for the lunch box and organize the items needed daily. Many schools promote garbage less snacks and lunches and you may need a supply or reusable small containers, and a drink bottle or thermos.
- Decide together where the backpack will be kept each night and where the child will do their homework. Organize the homework space with pencils, pens, paper, crayons and erasers.
- Post a calendar where the daily and weekly assignments can be recorded. Mark special events on the calendar such as pizza days, school trips and Professional Development (PD) days.
- Help your child to organize their clothing to make it easier to choose their outfit. If the school has a uniform, make sure the sox, belts and other items are easy to find.
- If your child needs a bus pass, apply ahead of time and decide where the pass will be stored each day.
- Establish the daily routine. A week before school starts, make sure your child goes to bed and gets up earlier. Your child is a year older and there may be more school related activities that the child can do independently this year. Your child may be able to transfer in and out of their wheelchair, or complete more dressing tasks. Identify what you expect your child to do each day and what they will be responsible for doing to get ready for school and after they get home.
Supporting the Teacher
- Find out the name of the teacher as soon as you can. Many schools inform the parents about the name of the teacher in June at the end of the school year. Many other schools assign teachers in late August and the child and family may only learn the teacher’s name on the first day of school.
- Ask how the teacher wants you to stay in touch. Some teachers may be willing to receive e-mails from parents, but others may prefer notes or phone calls. Find out the teacher’s preference and respect their wishes.
- Arrange a meeting with the teacher and other school staff as soon as possible to discuss your child’s special needs. The first meeting is an opportunity to share information and strategies that will help your child to participate in the classroom. If there is special equipment, explain how to use the equipment and request that training is provided for safe lifting and transfers. If there are special communication devices or the child uses assistive technology, suggest that the teacher, and other staff who deal with your child, request training to ensure effective use of technology.
- Suggest a follow-up meeting a week or two later to find out if the teacher has any concerns or questions. Continuous communication will help to resolve minor concerns and prevent problems.
- Develop a positive relationship with the teacher and school staff. Share positive stories about your child, be specific in commenting about your child’s success at school. Let the teacher know when an activity or project has been of special interest to your child. Get to know the teacher and inquire about her special interests or talents.
- Volunteer for school activities, if you have the time. Meet the Teacher nights are usually held in September and parent volunteers are often welcome to help with the event. Volunteers may also be needed in the classroom on a daily or weekly basis.
Develop a partnership with the Principal
- Meet the principal or re-introduce yourself early in the new school year. The principal is responsible for allocation of school resources and making referrals for additional resources, or services.
- Share successes when new strategies or services help your child to be successful. Let the principal know when school is going well for your child.