Jewish Journal

How to Survive the Transition Back to School

by Sarah Blitzstein, Director, HaMercaz & Special Needs Programs, Jewish Family Service

September 5, 2012 | 9:13 pm

It’s hard to believe but summer is over and fall has arrived.

Back to school transitions hard for all kids, but they can be especially hard for our children with special needs. Our kids may have just gotten used to their summer school, camp or summer therapist and now new changes .September and October are busy times at HaMercaz as we receive many calls from parents whose children have changed grades or schools and need additional guidance and support.

Terri Mauro, at www.specialchildren.about.com has put together 25 ways to make this school year the best ever. For a complete list, make sure to check out her website (you can also subscribe to a daily email with lots of wonderful articles and information).

Here are five of my favorite tips:

1. Learn the Lingo: Parents are our children’s best advocates—when you're standing up for your child's rights, particularly against people who may throw out lots of fancy terms to let you know they know more than you, it's important to have a good command of the bureaucratic language -- so study up on those IEP acronyms with a cheat sheet and a special-ed alphabet soup quiz. This is especially important during transition years—pre-school to kindergarten, elementary to middle school, middle school to high school.

2. Help Your Child Sit Still—“Sit still” is a demand adults can't help making, and too many kids with special needs can't help breaking. If your child's teacher regularly complains about your child's lack of desk-sitting decorum, come to the rescue with ideas for managing movement and increasing comfort, such as a weighted blanket for their lap or a ball chair that they can bounce on (lightly) during class). Give the teacher ideas and tips on what you noticed was helpful the year before or at home.

3. Join Your School's Parent Association and be involved.—Meetings may take valuable time, and time is a valued commodity, but it is important to participate anyway -- participation matters, and the voices of parents of children with special needs need to be heard and integrated into the PTA system.

4. Dress for less stress: Adapt the strategy of "change the environment" to your child's most immediate environment: the clothes he or she wears. Often, adjusting an outfit can make problem behaviors less obvious or troublesome, and it's way easier and more effective than endless nagging. On that same note, lay out your child’s clothes the night before so there is less to worry about in the morning. If your child has sensory issues and is sensitive to fabric/tags/colors etc then the night before is always a better time to check and make sure that their favorite shirt is clean than at 7:10 when carpool is outside

5. Monitor Your Child's Backpack—besides being too heavy to healthily lift, backpacks can hide all sorts of things you need to know about, from forbidden items to stolen goods to rotting gym clothes; stay in the know by performing inspections morning and night.

Do you have any favorite tips for back to school or need help with the back to school transition? Contact us at Hamercaz@jfsla.org.

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