While I can’t begin to tell you how to help each and every child with special needs, I can tell you how we’ve handled things in our own home for going back to school. It’s a tough time of year for most kids, but when you throw in the transition of changing from one structure to another (summer to school), our kids can turn upside down.
Our school year is off to a crazy start. While it isn’t bad, it isn’t good either. I’m sure I shared in the last post that we were asked to make a decision about changing schools at the last minute. Everything got pushed to the last minute because of this. I had to call in doctor’s orders from the diabetes clinic, contact the transportation department and fill out two sets of enrollment paperwork because of the last minute changes. Oh, and the shopping list for school supplies – two days before she had to start!
While, we couldn’t prepare well at all this year, I have found some things that I think are good tips to share in general, both for you and your special needs kids.
1. Make sure all your documents are in order. I actually started a binder and folder just for all of Nove’s important information. At first, I kept a 3 ring binder, but I have since moved to an accordion file divided into sections for;
- medical info – a chart of her medications including name, dosage, time of day taken, how often taken
- doctor and clinic information – names, addresses, phone and fax numbers for each doctor (and she has a few!)
- her disability paperwork – approvals, benefit amounts, ect.
- insurance paperwork
- school information – teacher, room, school phone and fax, nurse name and contact info., ect. I was able to pass this paperwork to the new teacher and school so they could contact the old school for shared information.
This binder is so awesome that the autism specialist for the district even commented on it at our meeting last Monday!
2. Let them know as much and as soon as you know. For instance, we knew there might be a school change before summer started. However, we thought it was up to us. So, I brought it up and talked to Nove about what might be good or not so good about choosing the new school. She didn’t want to go, and I was okay with that – although I was torn over what the best placement might be for her.
However, when we were told that she didn’t meet the criteria to continue at the old school, I immediately told her about it. It was anxiety inducing for me, for sure. However, she was able to tell me that she wanted to go to the old school because she knew people. So, that little tidbit helped me communicate to the program director for the new school that there was a clear social aspect to her anxiety and joy.
Once we knew that, I had the go ahead to tell her about another student from her former school who would also be part of this new “autism room” . That made all the difference! She was on board as soon I told her.
3. New school or just a new teacher? There are so many questions they have about your kiddo! Make a print out or even a brochure. If you aren’t that tech savy, just hand write some of your kid’s favorite things. Include some tips about what sets them off, or what lights them up.
I asked Nove to tell me what some of her favorite things are (although I already knew). Those went on the list, and I’m glad I asked because the teacher helped each of the kids to decorate their “area” of the new classroom. Nove has princesses and lots of pink in her area. In fact, that info was given early enough that when we went to meet the teacher on Monday, they had already printed out a pink princess with Nove’s name on it to place above where she will put all her paperwork. She even took a photo of it without being shown or asked during that meeting.
4. Visit the school and staff as early and as often as possible. We knew at the end of the school year, that it might happen. So, we visited the school, but the room and the teacher weren’t ready, so it didn’t give a good impression to my daughter. However, it helped us all to “visualize” where the chool is, what the layout is, and who some of the staff are.
Going in Monday was good, even though we didn’t get much one on one time with the teacher during the meeting.
5. Prepare yourself for the schedule changes. Once I found out what time the driver comes for her, I was able to figure out how early to get up. I decided that I wanted to make breakfast for her even if she won’t always eat it. I got up at 6 and started the pancakes. Nove is diabetic, so I can’t just run through McDonald’s drive through anymore. sigh…….
But, this worked. I didn’t feel stressed and wasn’t angry at her for not getting out of bed right that minute. The smell of food apparently was enough to wake her up slowly because part way through pancake making, she was awake and I gave her a hand getting out of bed and heading to the bathroom.
My objectives were to get her to eat and drink – take her meds – brush her hair and put on clean clothing. If nothing else happens, it’s okay. Next week, we’ll try to add in brushing teeth, but it’s never worked before so I’m not building castles on this hope!
I also decided a long time ago that if I don’t have to go to work, I don’t have to worry about how I look. But, I do try to run a brush through my hair and wear something that covers my parts. When I do work, I have a selection of clothing that is pre picked to match and work together so I don’t have to think hard (or at all) about what I’m wearing for the day.