The summer holidays are nearly over and we have really enjoyed spending this time with each other and our family and friends. Like all other families, these final days will be spent getting ready for a brand new school year. New books will be contacted, stationery will be labelled, uniforms will be ironed and bags will be packed. This will be the same for Chloe but in addition to this, I will be taking some time to help prepare her and her teachers for the year ahead.
Communication between parents and teachers is so important for any child and even more so when your child has special needs. Chloe attends a mainstream school which has a support centre for children with special needs. We are so lucky as Chloe’s school has been totally on the ball when it comes to her needs. We work together to ensure that Chloe is developing independence and making good progress everyday in all areas of her school life. I am also very fortunate to have an amazing Early Intervention Team, who have been visiting us at home since Chloe was a baby, and now make school visits to provide classroom support and strategies for her teachers.
Even with all of this amazing support, I still feel it is my job to be proactive and keep on top of everything. I know my daughter best and it’s important to me that I keep her teachers and support staff informed of any challenges we may be facing or any progress Chloe has made in her development. That way, I know we are all on the same page and we can all be most effective when it comes to helping Chloe achieve her goals.
This year, Chloe is starting Grade 1 which is a big shift from the play-based learning in Kindy and Pre-Primary. I have been putting together some information for her new teacher to help make the transition easier and to help her teacher and classmates understand her better. While I was completing this, I thought how useful a guide might be for other parents so I have created a free download which can help you to provide as much information about your child to their new teachers and classmates.
You can use the Back to School Special Needs Guide to:
- remind you of things you need to talk about when you meet with your child’s teacher,
- help you create your own document that you can send to the teacher and support staff for further discussion,
- assist with the creation of your child’s Individual Education Plan (IEP),
- provide an update to the teacher at the start of each term or semester so they have the most current information and knows where your child is at and what support they need.
Here is a summary of some of the information that the guide will help you with:
About your child
The classroom teacher may ask their new class questions about what they like or don’t like in order to get to know them and understand their personality. You can help your child and their new teacher by including some information such as:
- What is their favourite food?
- What is their favourite TV show?
- What do they enjoy doing in their spare time?
- What is their favourite subject at school?
- What do they like to do for quiet time?
- Who are their friends at school?
- What is their favourite toy?
- What are their interests?
- What is something interesting about your child?
There are so many things that make our children unique so it’s important to acknowledge who they are and what makes them special.
How is your child feeling about returning to school?
This information can be very helpful to teachers and support staff as it will give them an understanding of what to expect during those first few days of term so they can help them make the transition into the new year a pleasant one. Is your child feeling excited? Scared? Nervous?
What goals is your child currently working towards?
Over the holidays, what specific goals have you been working on at home and/or with therapists that you would like to see continue in the classroom or in the playground? These can include specific goals associated with your child’s academic, social or behavioural development. Be sure to explain what progress your child has currently made towards achieving these goals and some ideas and suggestions on how to help your child to achieve them. What are they struggling with? And is there currently any cause for concern?
What achievements did they make over the holidays?
It is always an amazing feeling when our children conquer a goal or reach a milestone in their growth and development. Over the holidays, what milestones or achievements has your child made that their teacher and support staff should know about? These achievements are all steps in helping your child on their journey to become an independent individual so they are definitely worth mentioning.
If there is something your child can now do by themselves then this should be encouraged at school. These could be things to do with toileting, communication, academic (such as writing their name, counting, spelling, reading etc), improved behaviour, gross motor skills or anything else new that your child can now do. Also, what improvements have they made? These should also be mentioned and celebrated too.
What activities/highlights did your child experience over the holidays?
During the early years of primary school especially, the first week or so, there are discussions and activities centred around the holidays. Many of our children are non-verbal or can’t articulate themselves well so it would be helpful to the teacher if we provide some information about their experiences on the holidays. This will help the teacher to initiate conversation and enable your child to better participate in classroom activities. Some things to include:
- Did you go away on holiday?
- Did you see any movies?
- Did you have any special visitors?
- Did your child have a particularly favourite day or memorable moment?
Be sure to ask your child for their input too where possible on how they felt about their holiday activities and what they enjoyed the most.
What does your child need help with?
This can include information on situations such as:
- Behaviour issues
- Gross motor skills
- Fine motor skills
Perhaps include only the most important or most significant challenges that can be worked on at school.
Write a letter from your child to their new classmates.
This doesn’t have to be done on the first day but it might be nice to introduce your child to their classmates and their parents early on so they may better understand your child and to help establish friendships.
- Introduce your child and explain what is different and special about them
- Include a photo
- What games they like to play
- What they enjoy about going to school
- Explain some things they might find difficult and may need help with
- If they have any behaviour issues that other kids might not understand, take the time to explain what is happening and why
- Include your phone number and an offer for a play date and a coffee!
- Ask the parents to read your letter to their child.
Many schools already encourage this but speak to the teacher first and ask if he/she is happy to distribute your letter to the parents. The teacher may also have some additional pointers on what you might like to include.
So there you have it. I hope you find my Back to School Special Needs Checklist helpful. If you did, please share with other parents who might also find this useful. I would also love it if you shared your back to school experiences with me.
I wish you and your child a very happy, exciting and successful first day!