Tips for Starting the New School Year

Resources compiled by ConnectWC

Prepare Your Child

Learn your child's thoughts about the New School year.

Talk to your child about what the school year may be like.  Allow opportunities for conversations with your child to discover what he/she may be thinking and feeling about the new year.

  • Academic Concerns - See if your child has concerns about academic subjects.  Let your child know he/she will get support for those subjects.  Make sure these concerns are communicated to school staff. 
  • Social Concerns - If your child has concerns about the social aspects of school, there are several tools you can use to help your child feel calmer.  Social stories can be a wonderful way to help make sense of social situations in a way that works for children that struggle with this part of school, especially those on the autism spectrum.  Learn more on social stories here. For teens and young adults, 9th Planet Social Skills Learning Videos include fun videos and follow-up activities to help you coach your child on social skill basics like joining a conversation, asking a question and recognizing sarcasm.
  • Time Management Concerns - Ask the school what your child's school schedule will be so you can discuss the school routines at home and offer any needed support to your child.  There are numerous online resources on how to create visual schedules. 

Establish routines -- Keep it low key.

  • The beginning of the school year is exciting, but it can also be stressful. Your child's sleep schedule will be shifting, and he/she will be getting to know new teachers and staff. Kids will be catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. With all of these changes, it's best to limit other changes in your child's day. Try to minimize extra activities for the first few weeks as they adjust to everything new.
  • Allow more time for the first few days as routines get established and streamlined. Rushing around in the morning can cause unneeded stress. Prep the night before; get clothes and supplies ready to go for the next day.
  • Figure out what routine works best for your child once they return home from school. Do they need time to unwind in front of the TV or spend some quiet time reading a book? Does physical activity at the end of the day help them recharge and relax?
  • Don't forget the basics. Make sure your child is eating healthy, nutritious food at home and school and drinking plenty of water.  Is the classroom chilly or a little too warm in the winter?  Making clothing choices to match the environment can help your child be more comfortable and ready to learn.  Sleep is important for general health and staying alert during the day. Establish bedtime routines and stick to them as much as you can.

Prepare School Staff

Introduce yourself!

  • Get to know the people who will be working with your child. Let them know you want to be an involved part of your child's team.  Share information on the best way to communicate with you and how to reach you when needed.
  • You may want to schedule a short introductory or "refresher" meeting with the people who will be working with your child.  Offer to provide them useful information about your child's learning needs or to bring them up to date on how some of those needs may have changed after summer camps or activities.

Prepare a one-page summary about your child.

  • Include a little about his/her personality, what they enjoy doing, favorite people in their lives, and how they communicate best. Focus on the positive and what your child CAN do.
  • While maintaining a positive tone, it is important to mention challenges, dislikes, and potential triggers that could negatively affect behavior or cause stress. Include special diet, allergy or safety concerns.
  • Briefly explain what works and doesn't work at home. For children that are non-verbal or have limited language, special attention should be given on how to interpret body language.  Share types of communication that are unique to your child.
  • We know our children so well that sometimes we forget the little, yet important things that could make our child's day better.  Ask family, friends and professionals that know your child well about what they think school staff should know.

Utilize the communication notebook.

If you have a notebook that goes back and forth to school, write down activities that your child did over the summer or in the evenings after school starts. These can be great conversation starters and help staff get to know your child better.  Sharing photos is great, too, especially for children with limited communication skills.

Update health and medical information.

  • Make sure the school nurse is aware of any medications or special health concerns or dietary restrictions.  
  • Share appropriate medical documents to assist in your child's care.
  • If you want your private therapists to communicate with school staff about your child's care, you will need to sign releases. 

Snap some photos!

Ask permission to take pictures of staff and rooms of the school before school starts in the fall. Compile it in a book format that can be paged through at home or sent back and forth to school.  This is a great a way to establish relationships with staff and familiarity with the school building.  Knowing who and what to expect can offer security and comfort.

Get Ready For All That Paperwork!

  • Start off the school year by setting up a spot just for school paperwork. A file cabinet is great, but a cardboard box dedicated just for IEPs and other documents will work, too.  More tips can be found on our Getting Organized page. You can also learn more from LD Online.
  • Create a contact list with school staff information:  names and positions, email addresses, phone numbers, etc.  Find out how each person prefers to be contacted and make a note of this on the list. 
  • Jot down questions, ideas, tips or topics you would like to discuss at the parent-teacher conference that occurs early in the school year. This way you aren't scrambling the night before (or morning of!) to remember what you want to talk about with your child's teacher.
  • Dust off that IEP or 504 Plan and review it at the beginning of the school year. Check dates and goals.  ConnectWC has extensive information on the special education process.  Learn more in our Education section.

Get Involved

  • Join parent support groups. You can find an extensive list of groups in a variety of locations and times on our Events page, Monthly Support & Connection Groups.
  • Have you heard of a SEAC? The Special Education Advisory Council is a great way to become involved and provide input on special education services at your school. Learn more about SEACS here., and from the State of Minnesota.
  • Find out about special events at school or in your child's classroom and volunteer when you can.
  • There are many organizations that can answer questions, clarify information, assist in brainstorming solutions to problems that arise, and offer support. For information on organizations that can help, visit our Advocacy & Support page.

 

Remember, the start of the school year can be a challenging time for the entire family. Things may not go smoothly for the first few weeks. This is natural as everyone gets to know one another and routines become established. Be flexible and work with the school to create the best learning environment for your child.