When I first started writing articles for our newsletter, I wrote one on transition – specifically about transitioning from K-12 school to the adult world. The word transition, however, applies to any change or shift from one thing to another. The transition I have been learning more about lately is the transition into school, be it a new grade, a new building, or a new community. As I have seen the worries about a new place through the eyes of my granddaughter (O.K. – my worries too), I have reflected on the added stress that a child (and their care givers) with a disability may face.
How can adults (caregivers and school staff) support the anxieties of a student experiencing transition? If you have recently sent your loved one to school for the first time, back to school, or are transitioning into special education services, here are some things to think about. If you are the educator receiving this precious package, these are good reminders well.
- First and foremost, establish a relationship with the teacher. Teachers love parents who are involved, and it makes a child feel more secure when they know you work together. Out of respect for the teacher’s time, make sure you identify the preferred way to communicate (is it an app, email, phone call, etc.).
- Developing morning/bedtime routines increases a child’s (and adults) comfort level. Using a visual schedule or checklist that is followed each morning/night (don’t forget to do one for delay schedules and late start schedules) reduces anxiety. Picking out clothes the night before is definitely a win the next morning.
- Discussing lunch the night before is another way to help with new transitions. Is your child going to eat at school or pack? If packing, having them help you pack the night before decreases the sometimes stressful decision making during the rush of the morning.
- When worrying about how a child will navigate school, social situations usually rise to the top. Find out if there is a buddy program at school. Get to know other parents in the classroom and their children. Determine adults in the building available if there are any social or behavioral need.
- Talk positive about school with your child. Not every parent has had a positive relationship with schools in their past. That does not mean school won’t be positive for a child. Kids feel and feed on adult emotions. When we are excited about what the day will bring, it helps children feel the same excitement.
Regardless of the transition a loved one in your life might be making, being prepared, proactive and positive, can make a difference.
HAPPY BACK TO SCHOOL TIME to all students, caregivers, and school staff!