Getting Organized for Back to School: Children with Special Needs

Getting Organized for Back to School: Children with Special Needs

08 October, 2020

Getting ready for the new school year can be hectic no matter what. But having a child with special needs means there are a few additional things to think about. Whether your child has an Autism Spectrum Disorder, a developmental delay, a processing disorder, ADHD, dyslexia, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, a physical impairment, or other learning disability, here are a few general tips to help keep your special needs student on a track to success for the upcoming school year:

1. Electronics: If your child's IEP (individualized education program) calls for any mode of assistive technology from an iPad to take notes to a Dynavox to communicate, make sure that they are always charged. Develop a routine for charging them at a certain time every night (after your child has gone to bed, so they do not miss it). It is also important to make sure that all other family members are aware of the plan for charing the device. For communication devices, since they tend to have a shorter battery life, consider including an additional battery. Your child's device is essential for their academic and social success, so make sure they are always ready to be used when your child heads off to school.

2. Special Services: Your child may be in a special education classroom, but many children with disabilities receive additional services too, such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language therapy, etc. Try to have these appointments secured before the school year begins if they offered by out-of-school district providers. For in-school district providers, check in with the appropriate personnel (a student services coordinator or a case manager) at the start of the school year to ensure that your child will be receiving all of the services that they are entitled to - its the law.

3. Other Extracurriculars: Extracurriculars are an important part of any child's social skills development. Ask around for playgroups, swimming lessons, or maybe set up a regular play date. Many museums, libraries, community centers, zoos, and science centers have weekly groups for children with a range of abilities. The New York Transit Museum even has a special  education program for special needs children on the autism spectrum who like trains! Setting the wheels in motion and planning opportunities for your child to work on social skills now will help reduce your stress as the school year commences.

4. Hygiene & Safety: To make things easier for yourself, try to make a checklist of essentials that your special needs child may need during the day, whether its diapers, pureed food, or other care needs to enhance their daily living. In addition, send along important contact information, and give your child an identification badge or card with contact information too, so he/she can introduce themselves, even if they are non-verbal.

5. Labels: Your child may lose their objects from time to time, so label them to make sure they find they way back! Labels can include: your child's name, a contact phone number, your child's school name, address, room number, and/or teacher's name. Make labels to put on their backpacks, lunch boxes, and assistive technology devices. Teachers are always grateful when parents of children with special needs label belongings to ensure everything is easy to locate.

Have a great school year!

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About the Author
Jules Csillag
Jules Csillag, BA, MS, CCC-SLP is a licensed speech-language pathologist and learning specialist who works in New York City. She is passionate about technology, special education, and progressive...

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