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How to Prepare Your Special Needs Child for Back to School

As a parent, you want to make the upcoming school year your child’s best yet. For parents of a special needs child, the task comes with additional challenges.

A new school year brings new teachers and classmates, schedules and routines, and new classrooms and settings to navigate. Whether your child’s special needs are physical, mental or emotional, there are ways you can help your child as they start the new school year.

Here are five things you can do to prepare your special needs child for back to school:

  1. Tell a story. Social stories use photos to help your child learn a set of steps. This can be a great way to prepare your child for what to expect when they start back to school. For example, you can make a social story that details the steps for getting ready for school, another for the school day routine, and another for the after-school routine.
  2. Ease anxiety. Let your child know you’re available to listen to her anxieties about school, but keep your own worries to yourself. Don’t let your child overhear you fretting about how they will get along at school and don’t ask your child repeatedly if they will be okay. Support your child and model a relaxed, positive attitude toward the upcoming transition.
  3. Get your paperwork in order. Make digital and hard copies of your child’s Independent Education Plan (IEP) and any other paperwork required. Review the plan to be sure there isn’t anything else that needs to be added.
  4. Explore the new territory. Arrange for a tour of the school so your child can meet the teachers and knows what to expect on the first day. It’s also helpful for children with physical difficulties to practice getting in and out of classrooms, using the school bathroom, etc.

In addition to the normal challenges school can bring, children with special needs may be the target of bullying. Research tips for coping with bullying and talk to your child about how they can help others who may be in need of a friend.

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