Back-to-school time can be challenging for any parent, but for parents of kids with special needs, there are added things to consider making sure the first day and remaining school year go well. Aside from new clothes, school supplies, and learning a new routine, these are some tips we’ve found really helpful.

Do Your Back-to-School Shopping Early

If your child is anything like mine, then he’s very particular about his clothing and supplies. Saying goodbye to old favorites is difficult and getting used to new things is a challenge. Tags, textures, and colors have to be just right. Plus, he gets overwhelmed in crowded stores. By shopping early, you can beat the rush and have time to return anything that doesn’t pass closer inspection. Getting your supplies a few weeks before school starts gives your child a chance to get used to them and start mentally preparing for the new year.

Attend Open House and Meet with New Teachers

Open house is important for both you and your child. It gives you a chance to meet and talk to the new teachers and helps you make sure they understand any challenges your child faces in both academics and socialization. Walk your child to each class and introduce them to the teachers. Many first day jitters can be eliminated by understanding where everything is and becoming familiar with the surroundings. Take home the new class schedule and any information the teachers provide. For older children, you might want to laminate and post the schedule somewhere they can see it. Make sure you get the name, email, and number of the individual in-charge or your child’s IEP so you can address any concerns you have as soon as they occur.

Review Your Child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP)

Read through your child’s prior year IEP. Think of any items you have a question or concern about and write down anything you would like added to the plan. It helps to look over the new class schedule and try to determine if there are additional needs for the new classes. Most schools schedule a new IEP meeting approximately a month after classes begin, but don’t hesitate to ask for a meeting if you have any concerns.

Arrange or Ensure Transportation is in Place

Decide how your child will get to and from school. If he rides a bus, be sure to get the number of the bus and times the route runs in your neighborhood during open house. Most homeroom teachers have a sign-up sheet that lets them know how your child will get to and from school. Sign your child up and notify the teacher or any special conditions about transportation. For example, if there are individuals allowed or not allowed to pick up your child from school.

Organize Paperwork

Be sure to keep any papers related to your child’s disability, including school psychology and testing results, copies of IEP papers, standardized testing and conference notes. Set up an expanding file or a binder and keep track of everything for future reference.

Maintain a Communication Log

Use a journal or notebook to log any phone conversations, meetings, and emails you have with teachers. This will help you later when you need to refer to who you talked to about a specific issue and when the conversation occurred.

Create a New Calendar

Throughout the new school year, you will encounter many meetings, school activities, and extracurricular events. Create a new family calendar and post it in a prominent location. Add appointments and other dates as soon as you know about them.

It also helps to create a daily schedule. it clear when homework time and bedtimes are and be sure to provide times for kids to be kids.

Address Any Challenges

Once you have everything organized and all papers have been filled out and returned, consider any challenges you think your child will encounter throughout the new year. Some of these issues might include:

  • New Lockers – Let your child attempt to open their locker during open house if possible. If there are issues remembering the combination or your child has trouble with a typical padlock, ask the school if you may replace the lock with one that uses rolling numbers or buttons.
  • Computer Systems – Many schools provide students with passwords and logins to system-wide programs. Go over the system and make sure your child can manage to get online at school without assistance.
  • New Schools – If your child is transitioning to a new school, make sure she knows the layout of the school, where her classes are and where to go for help if needed.
  • Gym Clothes – Some middle and high schools require students to change clothes for the gym. Consider items that make it easier for your child to get ready on their own, like pull-on gym shorts and Velcro shoes.

The best way to get ready for the new school year is by anticipating any issues before they occur. You are your child’s greatest advocate, so take initiative and make sure you and your child’s teachers are on the same page before the year begins.