The thought of your child starting high school can be frightening, especially if your child has anxiety, ADHD, Autism, or other special needs. As a school psychologist, I have had the opportunity to work with many students to help them experience a smooth transition. Here are a few tips that many parents and educators have found beneficial. Continue reading
Starting back to school can be stressful for many students and parents–especially when it involves transitioning from elementary to middle school. The anxiety can be multiplied when a student has special needs. Here are 5 tips to help ease the stress and prepare for a successful transition and start of the school year:
- As parents, we often have more anxiety about our child’s transition to a new level than our child does. This is normal! However, be careful not to allow your child to assimilate your concerns. Many children tend to gauge their interpretation of events based on their parents’ reactions. Simply put, if Johnny sees mom scared about him starting middle school, then, to him, middle school must be a scary place. Talk to your child about his or her concerns about middle school and try to address them. If you don’t have the answers, contact your child’s principal or special education teacher/case manager.
- Obtain your child’s new schedule as soon as it is available (usually at registration time). Request from the principal or special education teacher/case manager that your child walk through his or her schedule a couple of times before school starts. This will help familiarize your child with the layout of the school and the order of his or her classes, which can help ease some fears.
- If your child will be using a locker and has fine motor issues, request that he or she use a padlock instead of a combination lock. Another option is a store-bought lock that uses letters for a combination straight in a line, which might be easier for some students and won’t require him or her to carry a key around.
- Communicate! Send your child’s team of teachers a brief email before school starts to introduce yourself and your child with a few highlights of his or her strengths and needs. Teachers really appreciate this and it allows opportunity for questions about concerns or questions they might have. Keep in mind, though, that teachers have a few days of in-service and meetings before school starts so don’t expect a rapid reply. Continue communicating with them throughout the year as needed, especially if you have concerns. Celebrations and words of appreciation are always wecomed, as well!
- Relax! This can be the hardest thing to do as a parent when your child is transitioning from elementary to middle school. However, in my experience as I have seen students transition from each level to the next, that they all make it! Sure, there can be some bumps along the way–just like life–but your child’s team is there because they care about kids and want them to be successful. Be prepared…. the first 2 weeks can be the bumpiest as students are trying to adjust. But, guess what? The voyage may be different for each student but they are all in the same boat. I was nervous, too, as my own kids transitioned to middle school and I had different concerns for each of them. But, what I discovered was that they found their groove just like every other new middle schooler and they survived. Yours will, too. I promise!
Here’s wishing you and your child a successful start to a new school year! If you have specific questions that I haven’t addressed here, please feel free to ask!
Thanks for reading!
Kids look forward to summer break! For many kids, this can mean little or no structure or routine. This can be good for a few days, but most kids–and especially those with special needs–need to continue with a schedule of some sort. Structure is essential not only for a happy and enjoyable summer but also for a successful transition back to school in the fall. Here are a few tips for helping parents to provide a structure while having fun too!
- Set specific times for waking up, eating, playing, and sleeping. Keeping a daily structure and schedule throughout the summer is very important. A visual schedule is helpful for a lot of kids, especially those with ADHD or Autism.
- Add some responsibilities to the day. While it’s important not to overwhelm kids during the school year, summer provides opportunity to add some chores or responsibilities. This can strengthen your child’s self-esteem, strengthen his or her sense of responsibility, and build skills. One summer when my kids were young, we were planning a vacation near the end of the summer that would last for 3 weeks. To begin the summer, they had their daily chores for which they could earn points to “cash in” for money to use on the vacation to buy souvenirs. They also needed to improve their reading skills over the summer so I gave them extra points when they would read a book and were able to answer some questions about what they read. This helped to continue with structure through the summer, gave them an incentive for “cash” for vacation, and it helped them improve on their reading. They loved the weekly visits to the library, too, that we made part of our summer schedule!
- Designate certain activities for certain days of the week. For example, Monday movies at the local park or library; Tuesday is outing day; Wednesday is working in the garden or yard; Thursday is swimming; and Friday is free day where the kids get to choose from a list of preferred activities.
- For outdoor activities, try a nature scavenger hunt at a park or an obstacle course in the back yard.
- For rainy days, make a fort out of sheets, laundry baskets, and chairs–or just use the dining room table. You can have a movie day with popcorn and then have the kids color, paint or draw a picture about their favorite part. Doing crafts is also a great way to develop/improve fine motor skills and to inspire creativity!
Here’s to a great summer!
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Recently, I left my current position to pursue new opportunities in a different state. As I was wrapping things up before leaving, I reflected on the time I had spent there. I reminisced about the joyous moments, the wonderful friendships, the teamwork, the struggles and triumphs. I thought about all I was leaving behind and I couldn’t help wondering most about the footprints I would be leaving behind. “What legacy did I leave?” It might sound a little cheesy, but we all leave a legacy whether we intend to or not. When we leave a position or job, we leave behind footprints or a path for the next person to continue on. When we raise our children, we contribute to society and leave behind our legacy as a parent–an example for our children to follow (or not). When we educate students, we also invest in students’ lives and the future of society. Think about the legacy you are building. What will yours be? What will you be remembered for as a parent, educator, professional?
Thanks for reading!