Children with ADD, ADHD, autism, learning disabilities and other special needs often have difficulty with the social or academic aspects of school and they can be reluctant to return to the demands of the educational environment. Parents who build in support with routines established and maintained during the summer help their child feel safe and secure as they venture back to the world of school and friendships.
Begin the transition process early
At least a month in advance, show your child on the calendar when school will start. Include a little drawing of something that symbolizes fun to your child, such as a kickball or an artist’s palette—something that he connects with school.
Back plan from that date, writing into the calendar times to go shopping for clothes, school supplies, and a cool new book bag.
Also plan ahead for end of summer fun experiences such as a day at the beach or a barbeque with friends. Be sure your child knows these great events are coming up and looks forward to them.
In fact, start this year by establishing a special celebratory event as an end-of-the-summer-custom that will ease your child’s transition back to school in the years to come!
Remind your child of some favorite fall activities such as football games, apple picking and Halloween, and connect the return to school with these favorite activities.
While you’re looking at the calendar, be sure to show your child times for relaxing and being with family and friends, such as weekends and holidays.
Children need routines to be at their best
We often relax bedtimes and other routines during the summer, but August is the perfect month to begin the gradual transition back to the structure of academic life.
Start now to put more structure into the schedule—don’t wait until the week before school resumes, or your child will have much greater difficulty getting into the flow.
Make bedtime a bit earlier each week, until your child is going to bed at the “school bedtime” by the third week of August—children’s bodies need to make the new bedtime a habit in order to adapt and be ready for learning.
Be sure to have structured academic time each day. This can be a couple of hours in the morning or in the afternoon, but it’s important to give your child the structure of learning. Making academic gains is often more difficult for our kids—they can’t afford to fall behind. For tips on fun ways to practice academic skills (at any time of year!) download free audio files from my website.
Be sure to discuss the structure that will be in place for homework time when school starts. Before school starts is a good time to talk with your child about the homework rules of the house. It’s best to develop these rules in collaboration with your child so you both feel they are fair. Discuss homework time as part of your child’s job as a student.
It is vital to find a few moments everyday to give each of your children undivided special attention. Treat yourself and your child to exclusive, one-on-one time together each day. Develop joint interests and pursue them passionately.
Children with special needs can be fearful and uncomfortable with transitions, making it important for parents to give special consideration and care to the back to school season! With careful attention to routines and advance planning, our kids can handle transitions with calm security.