5 Back To School Tips for Parents & Professionals
It’s that time of the year for many of us... Back to School Time!
Whether we’re teachers or parents, we are gathering up pens, pencils, glue sticks, etc. You know all those fun school supplies. But if you’re a special needs parent/teacher there’s more than the school supplies to prepare for.
We may need to prepare our kids with social stories, picture schedules and conversations about bus rides, rules, making friends, finding classes, etc. But I want to talk about you for a minute. What about us parents and teachers? Have you allowed yourself to feel your stress and thought about how doing this could also help your child/student?
Parents, teachers and guardians can feel just as much stress as our kids do this time of the year. It’s so much change! It’s worrying if the teacher will understand my child? Will they see the potential I see? Will my child find friends? How many of you have felt these fears or similar ones? It’s hard! I remember years when I’d send our daughter off to school and I’d hold back my tears until no one could see me, then I’d breakdown.
So how can we make this Back to School time easier?
Here are my 5 tips!
A Get to Know Me Paper – I understand how scary it is sending your child off to a classroom of strangers. Will the teacher understand his sign for bathroom? Will they know swinging helps him calm? These are real concerns! To make it easier on you, your child and his/her teacher, make a “Get to Know Me” paper. This is a paper you write that highlights of what you want your child’s teacher/therapist to know about him/her. You can list some of their favorite things, least favorite things, your contact info., etc. Keep in mind the teacher may have multiple ones to read, so I’d keep them straight forward and brief (1 or 2 pages tops), but this way you know you gave them the info. that they need and can build from. After a week or so, maybe send the teacher a quick email asking how things are going and if they have any questions.
Open the lines of communication – When you find out who your child’s teacher/therapist will be, send them a short, quick email, just a couple of sentences. Say hi, introduce yourself and that you’re excited to work with them this year. You don’t have to say more, this is just a chance to “meet” each other, make a connection. You can say the rest on your “Get to know me paper” or in a face to face meeting.
It takes time – Even the most prepared teacher still needs time to get the class settled and get to know the students. As parents it can be hard to be patient during this time, but keep trying. Offer tips and advice, work with the teacher, but try to give them time to connect with your child.
Teacher Introduction - This one’s for the teachers/therapists/paraprofessionals. I know your preparing your rooms, printing out plans, reading IEP’s and going to professional trainings. You are super busy. Thank you for all the prep work you’re doing! Have you also thought about preparing a teacher introduction letter to send home before the year starts? This can help ease both the students and parent’s anxiety about starting the new year.
1:1 Open House Times – Most schools have an open house about a week before school starts. It’s a time where families and students come and go, but I recommend scheduling times with each family if possible. This gives both the teacher and the families a chance to get to know each other and start building the connections that can set the rest of year up for success.
Ok, I know not all of these will work for everyone. Every teacher, parent and school is a little different, so maybe only one or two will work. Adjust them to make them fit your needs. The main idea is to recognize our anxiousness as adults and do what we need to calm our fears so that we can help our kids and students have the best start to the school year as possible!