Back to school: tips for parents of children with additional needs
When children are about to start a new school they are likely to feel both excited and anxious – and so will their parents!
For young children who have been diagnosed with a physical or learning disability taking the leap to primary or high school can be particularly daunting and their parents may have additional worries about how they will respond to being in a new environment.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve gathered some tips and advice to help guide parents whose children have special needs and are starting a new school this September, which may make the transition a little easier. We understand that, as a parent, you will know what is best for your own child, so please be aware that some of the advice below may not be appropriate for every family.
Preparing for school as a parent
There are a few things, as a parent, that you can do before your child starts their new school to help make their induction go as smoothly as possible whilst also putting your own mind at rest.
Communication with the school
Keeping in touch with the school is important to make sure you’re prepared and up to date with everything before your child starts there in September. If you know what support is available, who the new teachers will be and what classes your child will be taking then you can talk to the school about these areas and ensure both you and the school are on the same page when it comes to supporting your child.
Good communication is also vital for staying informed of any changes that have been made at the school, which you may need to prepare for, and this will ultimately make you feel more confident when your child begins their new journey.
Talking to parents
Try to get in contact with other parents of children with additional needs who have attended the school, or are starting at the same time. Communicating with other parents who are going through similar experiences can be reassuring, especially when you know there are other, local parents who can understand what you might be feeling during your child’s first few weeks at school and can offer you support.
There’s also a lot of advice from parents available online. Contact, also known as Contact a Family, is a charity that supports the families of disabled children and encourages families to get in touch so they can support each other. Contact have a great range of resources online, a helpline and an engaging community page where you can chat with other families.
Preparing your child for school
Preparation is key when it comes to helping your child anticipate what their new school environment may be like and helping to avoid fear of the unexpected.
It’s highly likely your daily routine over the summer holidays will be drastically different to the routine your child will experience when starting a new school. With this in mind, it is important to slowly change the routine before school starts so they won’t feel under further stress as they start a whole new schedule when they begin their new school.
You may want to start getting them up a little earlier every day or changing their general morning and evening routines at home. If your child is excited about starting school, they may be eager to start the new routine; but if not, altering routines gradually over a period of time is one way to help your child prepare for changes that are coming and make their new routines a little less daunting and/or tiring.
Talking about what to expect
If your child has any concerns or questions, try to encourage them to talk about it with you and ask them what their specific worries are so you can address these together. Your child may wonder what kind of activities they are going to be doing, what their day will be like and where they will be during the day. Try to be honest, but concentrate on what you think they may enjoy. Try to encourage your child to enjoy the end of their holiday before they start their new school and take the focus off school for a few days.
Some children with special educational needs may benefit from hearing the sounds and atmosphere of different areas at school before they start. Wales NHS has a great webpage called Soundwalk which shows a map of a school with audio recordings from typical school settings, including a classroom environment, the playground, the library and the sports hall.
You may have already arranged a meeting to visit the school early with your child, or you may have already been to see it. If possible, you should also meet any teachers, counsellors or support workers so your child will recognise some faces on their first day. If they are still a bit concerned after visiting the school, you could try to incorporate drives and walks past the school or even make a book with images of the different classrooms and areas where your child will spend their days. This can be a comforting and reassuring exercise.
The term independence will vary for every child, but it is important for parents to inspire their child to become more independent before they start school. Being away from parents or family for much of the day can be very difficult for some children, but they will be doing a lot more tasks by themselves which will hopefully encourage them to gain confidence. You could help them with simple daily tasks like putting on and taking off their own coat, to bigger learning curves like toilet training.
School equipment and uniform
Children may be excited, or perhaps a bit apprehensive about wearing their new school uniform. Let them know what their uniform is like, and see if they want to wear it for before their first school day to get used to what it feels like. Don’t forget about P.E. kits too!
Talking through your child’s school bag and helping them to pack is a great way to encourage organisation skills and let them know what stationary and accessories they will need every day.
Resources for starting school
Mencap has lots of information and advice about your child’s educational rights and the educational support and resources that are available to them. They also have an online community where you can talk, ask questions and find support from other families and parents who have a child with a learning disability.
From posture chairs and mobility aids to inclusive dining equipment designed to make it easier for children to eat and drink, our website offers a whole range of products for young people with different disabilities. Be sure to have a browse and see how NRS Healthcare can help make it easier for your child to adapt well in their new school.
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- April 2nd 2019