Going back to school with special needs

Do a trial bus run before the real deal.

When it comes to making the transition from lazy summer days to the structure of school, parents of special needs kids have special concerns. But no matter the child, it all comes down to routine in September.

“The biggest thing you can do to help any child adjust to back-to-school is get them back in a routine,” advises Kathy Palermo, program coordinator for the Green Tree School in Germantown, which has been serving students with emotional disabilities, autism spectrum disorders and preschool developmental delays since 1957. 

“Getting to bed earlier and getting up earlier is really the big one.”

Palermo suggests creating a small book of family photos for preschool-aged children with special needs to bring along to school with them. “If they start getting upset at school, they can look at it,” she notes. Packing a familiar lunch or snack for your child, and making sure all of their necessary school supplies are laid out the night before classes begin can also help smooth the way for a happy school day.

It also may help to do a practice visit. “Though the school may be closed, at least go there and take a walk around before school starts,” says Palermo. “If you know the bus route, perhaps take them that way. If you can find out the schedule ahead of time, go through it with your child. Teachers will do this as well.”

Last but not least, don’t demand interaction as soon as your child arrives home. “Give kids time to relax when they get home,” Palermo advises. “And this goes for any kid: Don’t ask how was your day –ask something specific.”


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