Well how did it happen?
August is here!

For us that means school is literally right around the corner. I know I just printed out the supply list for my son, Michael. I think I have been in a state of denial up until the calendar silently started screaming at me that I needed to face reality.

So I did. And now we are planning the other run of the mill back to school things such as clothes shopping and prepping for open house night etc.

But when you have a child with special needs those back to school things get more complicated. I know first hand because of Elizabeth, our daughter with global dyspraxia and sensory processing disorder (SPD).
I thought it might be a nice idea to tell you some helpful tips to prepare for that new school year:

  1. GET OUT YOUR SUMMER NOTES- If you have been taking notes on your child’s activities throughout the summer, then this is where all that work will be so helpful. You can review your notes and see the successes and struggles of the summer. You can see where your child worked so hard and you can see JUST where your child is right now. This way you can use this information to do the next thing.
  2. WRITE LETTER TO TEACHERS/SCHOOL- This letter to the school will help get everyone on the same page right away. No waiting until the “see” your child. Nope. They will know what your child has done this summer. They will know what therapies her had, what new words he said. What he did that was new or what he is still working on. They will know so much via this letter immediately. I made sure the letter went to EVERYONE who might have contact with Elizabeth, so think office workers, lunch aides and recess aides. The note also told everyone a bit about her disorders as there are always new employees to a school system. Copy the letter and note on it when you distributed them for your records.
  3. MAKE A CALENDAR FOR YOUR CHILD– Time, to Elizabeth, was a hard concept to understand. So a visual of time….a calendar, had always worked so well. So using one, for her, helped her see when school was started and allowed us to talk about it. To talk about what time I would wake her, when she would do homework ( using after dinner as the time marker for her as well as telling her the time). Doing this allowed us to talk about the things she needed to know as well as her anxiety and other emotions that arise as the day to start got closer.
  4. TAKE A FEW WALKS AROUND- Elizabeth always loved to take a few looks at the room she was going to be in. So we went a few times. This seemed to allow her to mentally process things and it seemed to take down her anxiety related to the “new” of the year.
  5. ANTICIPATE THE STRUGGLE-   So here is the truth, you can do all the above and still find yourself looking directly into the eyes of a very anxious child. I learned through the years that the struggle and anxiety can sometimes only be relieved by getting through the day. Meaning all I did helped, I know it did, but getting to the school year was really the only way for her to really see all would be as we said. Our one therapist told me that at times like these, it would be a good idea to put no unnecessary demands on Elizabeth. In other words, let her relax and take as many breaks as needed. I put this one in because sometimes simply being there for her and understanding was what she needed as the days counted down.
  6. PLAN A TREATI have always had a note, sign or treat for my children after the first day of school. I thank my mom for instilling in me this pretty neat tradition. I know my kids look forward to it each year. So I plan something for each child to show them I was thinking of them on this first important day.

I hope some of these ideas will be helpful for those in countdown mode!

I wish everyone a peaceful week.

Michele Gianetti, author of “I Believe In You: A Mother and Daughter’s Special Journey” and “Emily’s Sister”