Prepare Your Special Needs Child For a New School Year

The end of a school year is a highly anticipated and exciting event for teachers, parents and students. Achievements are celebrated, relationships are created, and memories are made. Year-end celebrations also signal a movement from one class or grade to another. But in a few short weeks, there will be new teachers to meet, new classrooms to work in, new enviroment to lern, new routines to learn and new material to master.

Children with special needs require extra attention during the shift from one school year to the next. A change in environment or routine can be disruptive. Without proper planning, adjustment to a new school year can be challenging. Preparing your special need child for the new academic experience in advance as much as possible can help them adjust to this transition better. Here are some ways in which parents can do to help their special needs child prepare for a new school year:

  1. If possible, arrange to meet your child's teacher and the school staff before the first day of school. Arranging these meetings can help reduce anxiety and ease the transition into a new environment.
  2. Arrange for a school tour before the first day of school.  Your child may get to see and meet their teachers for the new year. Also, to see school facilities such as the classrooms, toilets and playground ahead of time. This will help the child be familiar with school environment and build their confidence for using the school facilities.
  3. In the first week or two of school get a detailed Occupational therapist assessment report and email to your child's teacher to explain your child's diagnoses, strengths, weaknesses and interests. An Inclusion and Intervention Plan/Individualized Education Plan (IIP/IEP) meeting will likely not be scheduled right away so this tip is a great way to help your child's teacher know what to expect or how to best help your child.
  4. Make sure your child's school is aware of your child's diagnoses, especially if it is your child's first year of school or if it is your child's first year in a new school.
  5. If your child has strong sensory preferences (e.g. sensitivity to taste and smell, self-biting or self-hitting, problems filtering sounds from noisy environments, chewing objects, making noises etc.). Talk to your OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST for an advice and suggestions to your child’s teachers.
  6. Establish and practice a school routine in the days or weeks leading up to the new school year. Getting to school on time every single morning can be tough, so it is important to get your child into a routine of waking up by a certain time, eating breakfast by a certain time and so on.
  7. Don't forget about bedtime routines! In order to have your child waking up on time every school morning, getting them to bed at a regular time is important. So be sure to establish a consistent bedtime routine for the school year in the days or weeks leading up to the new school year.

This new experience is probably going to, temporarily, throw your child’s world upside down. Whatever routine they currently follow is going to change and this adjustment may be difficult (it’s hard on the parents too!). Parents can prepare their special needs child for a new school year by providing appropriate information, skills and strategies. This will help ensure that transitioning into a new class or new school will be a positive experience.

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Sarm’s Occupational Therapy and Rehabilitation Centre

Centre is Located at Nadharia St,
Kijitonyama, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

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