It’s that time of year again where you are stressing about whether or not you and your child are ready to go back to school, or maybe they are starting kindergarten! How exciting. You have shopped for the school supplies, new clothes, a lunch box and more more, and now it’s time to work on the transition from summer to school.
If you have not already started, plan on getting your child back on that early morning routine so they have to get up and get dressed, eat breakfast and head out the door somewhere to prepare them for school mornings. You don’t want to be rushed in the mornings, because that can send them into sensory overload.
Before School Starts
Visit the new classroom and teacher if possible, maybe even meet the bus driver beforehand. You want your child to feel comfortable and ready to start school. If they are already familiar with these things, it still is nice to write a social story with pictures to help prepare them depending on their level of understanding. Always make sure your child gets a well-balanced breakfast. Try [easyazon-link asin=”B001TZK8DE” locale=”us”]seamless socks[/easyazon-link] and tagless shirts if those things typically bother your child so they are not constantly distracted while at school.
If your child is on an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) make sure they get started right away with accommodations your child needs. Sensory breaks, [easyazon-link asin=”B001TZI6DS” locale=”us”]fidget toys in the classroom[/easyazon-link], a [easyazon-link asin=”B0029Z0NGA” locale=”us”]move-n-sit[/easyazon-link] in their chair if needed, [easyazon-link asin=”B000KQQUQW” locale=”us”]headphones[/easyazon-link] if they are auditory sensitive and anything else your child needs. Sometimes it takes therapists awhile to get rolling with their large caseloads before they start seeing your child for direct therapy or consult therapy, but the teacher can at least start some of the sensory strategies needed. Hopefully you have set this up in advance.
Setting Goals and Advocacy
Educate yourself on your child’s IEP; you need to know EXACTLY what their goals are and how much services your child is receiving per week/month/year, etc. You have to advocate for your child because they typically cannot do it themselves. Make sure you let every teacher and assistant that is involved with your child know about their specific sensory needs at school.
Whether your child is in ½ day Kindergarten or full day school, make sure when they get home from school, you allow them a break. If they need a snack and some quiet time, give them a [easyazon-link asin=”B002XPNMFU” locale=”us”]calming space to relax in[/easyazon-link]. If they need to get energy out from sitting too much at school, allow them to play outside, or do something physical inside if weather doesn’t permit to go outside. Don’t put too many demands on them in the first hour after school because school is demanding enough.
Make sure you think about your child’s level of energy and abilities if you start tacking on soccer, dance, music lessons, brother’s baseball game etc. I think sports, music, dance, karate, swimming etc. are great for kids to do and it teaches them teamwork, helps with focus, strength and more, but don’t overwhelm your child. They are probably/hopefully getting clinic based Occupational Therapy weekly as well, and maybe even Speech Therapy and more.
Make sure you don’t overload yourself either and take time for yourself to relax, get a massage, have a date night with your partner/spouse and also give one-on-one time with your other children.
I know you know all of this already, but it’s a nice reminder. As an OT working with children with special needs every day, I have to constantly remind myself to take a break, relax, go work out and enjoy life. If you don’t take care of yourself, you will not be able to give your child the most you can give.