Every parent takes steps to prepare their child for the return to school each year, which can be a complex task even under normal circumstances. Parents of children with special needs—who had to serve as teachers, therapists, and coaches during pandemic-related school closures—face an even more Herculean process.
As schools reopen for in-person learning, many adults may be letting out a well-deserved sigh of relief. Nonetheless, it’s important to get organized well before the school year begins, particularly for parents of special needs students. Here are some key back-to-school tips.
Organize Your Child’s IEP BinderFirst, assemble or update your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) binder. The IEP binder is an excellent tool for organizing your child’s records. Use it to store all documents related to special needs services and school policies. These include your child’s evaluations, progress, and sample work as well as your communications with school personnel. If you already have an IEP binder, be sure to update it, creating new sections related to any new classes, activities, or services. If you’re new to IEPs, read more tips for creating a binder.
Discuss the Upcoming Year with Your ChildOne of the most important tips for back-to-school special needs parenting is mental preparation. As you address logistical considerations for their new school year, it will be beneficial to talk with your child about what the coming year will be like. This will help both of you to prepare for it mentally and get on the same page with regard to plans. In your conversations, be sure to do the following:
Purchase and Prepare School Clothes and SuppliesIt’s important to sort through your child’s clothes and supplies at least a few weeks before school starts, purchasing new ones as needed. Incorporate your child’s input as much as possible so that they are comfortable with the new additions. Remove outgrown or worn clothing and supplies to eliminate any confusion for your child about what to wear, bring, or use. This is a great time to organize their closets and other storage so they can find everything easily. Where applicable, help special needs children come up with a system for planning outfits each week.
Plan and Arrange TransportationOne of the most important back-to-school safety tips is to make, update, and confirm transportation plans for your child. Determine whether it’s best for your child to ride the school bus or be driven by yourself, a spouse, or another caregiver; decide how your child will get from Point A to Point B if a backup plan is needed. Communicate your plans to the school and any appointed drivers to help keep your child safe.
Schedule a Visit to Campus Before School StartsSchedule a visit to the school campus to familiarize yourself and your child with any new classrooms, lockers, facilities, or offices, particularly if they are attending a new school. This is also a good time to check that all anticipated accommodations are actually in place for them. If agreed-upon accommodations are missing or additional ones are needed, contact the school. You can prevent stress and confusion for both you and your child by ensuring that all needed items and services are in place before the start of classes.
Communicate Your Child’s Needs to Teachers and Service ProvidersAbove all else, every parent of a special needs child should communicate with school and services personnel well before the beginning of the year. This is true particularly if there are major updates to the IEP binder or to your child’s situation, and even more so if you are new to the IEP and associated procedures. Be sure to follow up on any staff recommendations from the previous spring. All of the above will help to ensure that everyone involved is up to speed with regard to your child’s needs, academic progress, and support programs.
Back-to-School Special Needs Resources for ParentsIf you’ve taken all of these steps in back-to-school preparation, congratulations—you and your child are well on your way to a successful new school year. You can consult additional resources that provide support for parents of special needs children throughout the year. If you live near Roanoke, Texas, you can also contact the New Transitions Center.
New Transitions Center is a community-based organization focused on enhancing the lives of young adults with special needs and the loved ones who support them in the Roanoke, Texas area. The Center supports young adults with varying degrees of intellectual, developmental, and physical disabilities, including those who may need assistance with ambulation and personal hygiene. Find out how you can help us fulfill our mission and maintain a low member-to-direct care provider ratio by donating to our cause, exploring our events and campaigns, or contacting us to join as a community partner today!