Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Back to School

While most of us see school as a happy place full of kids to play with and things to do, for children with special needs it can be a nightmare. New places, new people and new sensory assaults can make school a traumatic experience.

There are a few steps that you can take at the beginning of each year which will help to mimimise the impact of this big step.

1. Meet the teacher.
Make an appointment with your child's teacher so that you can meet before the school year begins. It will help the teacher to better understand your child's needs but it will also let your child become familiar with the teacher and the environment. The more often your child can visit the easier it will be to settle in when term begins. He or she will know the layout of the room and have experienced the sounds and textures around it.

2. Wear the uniform at home
This is especially important if the uniform or the shoes are new. There is nothing worse than wearing scratchy clothes or buttoned up collars for the first time unless it is the torture of new shoes! For children with heightened sensitivities it is even worse. Let them try on the clothes at home. Wearing will soften collars and shoes over time and you can do it in small stages. Coming to terms with new buttons or buckles will take a while. Doing it gradually over a few months is often the best approach. Working through these things before the school year begins will make the first week a lot more comfortable for both of you.

3. Tell the teacher about your child's sensitivities.

Make sure that your teacher knows what might trigger a reaction from your child. Is she sensitive to noise? What sort of noise - the babble of busy kids or the sudden noise of the bell? If he dislikes the feel of carpet the teacher will need to create a special place to sit. Most sensitivities can be managed with some careful planning.

Author, Sally Thibaut, created a report that she discussed with the teacher every year. "I would re-visit the School Report each year and would make time with each new teacher to ensure they understood just what David’s needs, his challenges, his strengths and his weaknesses were each year, and that we were all on the same page when it came to ensuring just exactly what our expected outcomes were. The information then formed the basis of an IEP – Individualized Education Programme, that was updated and revised each year." She has made the report available as a
free report for you to adapt to your child's needs.

4. Talk to your child
In all the fuss of informing schools and teachers about your child's needs you might forget that you need to talk to your child, too. While you practice putting on the uniform or finding the label on the schoolbag, talk about what to expect at school Start building familiarity before the child has even started school. One way to introduce the idea is through images. Here is the link to a flip book created by Marita at Stuff with Things to help her child get used to the idea of starting school. It is also a free download.

The day your child starts school is a huge milepost in your lives. The more preparation you can do before that day comes, the more likely it is to be a great day.

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