For students who learn differently, summer provides a respite from the social, emotional, behavioral, and learning issues that can make school challenging. But summer’s temporary lull can make returning to school even more difficult. Being vigilant can help prevent problems before they reach crisis proportions.
First Things First
Before the semester gets into full swing, sit down with your child to discuss last year’s happenings and this year’s anxieties, both in the classroom and beyond. That’s a great way to open the discussion as it will let your child know you’re tuned into her concerns, plus it will provide a natural starting point for a deeper conversation on how to ensure a productive school year.
Begin by reviewing the IEP or 504 plan to decide which accommodations were helpful and which were not. Even if you disagree with her evaluation, give your child a chance to explain what worked and what didn’t from her point of view. This will offer you the opportunity to verify that she understands her learning differences at an age-appropriate level.
While it may be easier to talk about success, it’s critical to discuss fears and feelings of failure as well.
Early on share with this year’s team what motivates and frustrates your child. Don’t assume that people working with her for the first time will be aware of testing reports, IEPs, and other crucial information. Take the time to personally introduce all educators to her unique issues and devise a system that enables consistent communication between school and home.
Problems increase when children with LD can’t see the board, hear what the teacher is saying, or stay alert enough to record a homework assignment. Head off such preventable problems by making sure your child sees the professionals who monitor her wellbeing, from the ophthalmologist to the orthodontist.
Inventory the systems and supplies that help your child succeed. Visit a school supply store to learn what is available to help her organize thoughts as well as things. Purchase equipment that she can operate independently and competently. The most sophisticated graphing calculator won’t help if she doesn’t know how to navigate it.
Speak to an Assistive Technology (AT) specialist if you think your child might benefit from an AT assessment and recommendations. Find out from the tech specialist about equipment that works best for specific grade-related assignments. Advance preparation can save your child from developing “I would have done better if I only had…” syndrome.
Begin the school year on solid ground by establishing boundaries and routines. First-day chaos, if unchecked, can turn into first-term, if not full-year chaos. Cover all variables. Discuss transportation, school and extra-curricular activities, ways to access learning and social-emotional supports, and even how and where your child will eat lunch.
Visit school with your child to alleviate anxiety by exploring the physical facility before classes begin. After discovering the issues that seem to be making your child anxious, find creative, supportive ways to impart reassurance.
Even more difficult than returning to school after summer vacation, is beginning a new year in a new school. Whether you move to a different system or your child simply changes levels, make sure to provide the new school with complete and comprehensive information about your child’s assets and deficits. Make sure that all faculty and staff entrusted with her education know what frustrates and what facilitates success.