Events, features and things to do for families in New Hampshire
By Elizabeth Feingold
The last days of summer can be an exciting time, with children taking a special trip to buy their back-to-school outfits, sneakers, binders, pens and pencils. But for children with special needs, and their families, it can be a worrisome time as well.
Back-to-school time is when the questions start popping up in the minds of parents of a child with special needs:
• Is her teacher going to understand her needs?
• Is he going to be fully prepared for what faces him – on the playground and in the lunchroom as well as in the classroom?
• Is my child wondering if she will have friends?
• Is he going to understand the new math problems?
• How many phone calls am I going get during the school year?
In view of this, here are some important steps parents can take to ensure that the coming school year will be exciting and successful:
•Get your child acclimated to their surroundings before school starts. Arrange for a visit and tour of the school before it officially opens.
• During the tour, arrange visits with people on your child's educational team – the principal, teachers, paraprofessionals, specialists, the office secretary, the school nurse, the lunch lady. Whomever they will be encountering while at school and those will help him with any obstacles.
• Get your child familiar with their walking or bus route. If you can, try to get them acquainted with the bus driver ahead of time, too.
• If a child has medical needs, they should go see her doctor to get their health status reviewed. If they are taking medication, make sure the dosage is correct – kids grow fast, and it's easy to forget that if someone's grown three inches and gained 20 pounds, their medical needs might change.
• If your child has been in a summer program, help them maintain the skills they’ve learned so they won't significantly regress before school starts.
• To prepare them for school, kids should be reading, be read to, or gaining literacy skills through technology. Make sure they get their summer reading done – whether that means they are reading, you’re reading to them, or they’re accessing books on an iPad or iPod. That way they won't feel they haven't accomplished something the other children have completed.
• Kids also can feel anxious when they enter that first day of school and see the other kids with new binders, rulers, pens and pencils and markers. It's a big boost to show up on the first day fully prepared and it's a big step toward helping them fit in and be fully included.
• Establish a means of communication with the school. It doesn't matter if it's through email, telephone, text or a notebook, just as long as it's a consistent, year-round line of communication between home and school involving a variety of your child's team members. Don't be afraid to ask questions.
• Talk to your child. Make sure you tell her how exciting school is and how great a place it is to be. But at the same time listen to your child’s worries – and be sure to share what’s appropriate with his or her team.
Above all, read as much and learn as much as you about your child’s needs and the district’s philosophy about educating children with special needs. That way you can be the best advocate for your child.
Elizabeth Feingold is special services coordinator at Kearsarge Regional High School in North Sutton. She’s been a special education teacher since 1984. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.