Starting School Advice

Special Needs School Advice

With “back to school” now just weeks away, I have been receiving alot of emails requesting “my” advice from, in particular, parents of children starting school or preschool this September. As you may know from reading The Little Puddins Blog, I have two boys with Autism, SPD, and Intellectual Disability, that makes me an expert on “my” children, but not an expert on all children with disability.

I decided for this post instead of giving just my “advice” I would ask other experienced parents on what they thought was the best advice to give. I posted the question over on my Facebook Blog Page and lots of brilliant parents commented, giving their advice to parents of children with special needs starting school/preschool this September. I hope you find their advice helpful and I would love to hear your advice too, so comment below and I’ll add include your advice later in the week when I update this post.

As always, please share this post as you never just know who is struggling right now, trying to help their child, but who may not have someone they can ask for advice when they need it most.x

Advice from Keira Keogh Behavior Consultant- 

Use visual schedules to show them who is dropping them off and collecting them. Start using the schedule now so they understand it by the time school starts. Try get some skills independent before they go e.g. taking off and hanging up coat, opening lunch box and food containers. Get their new bags and coats now and get them used to them over the next few weeks so they can find their own independently. Put a list together for the teacher of any triggers to behaviour/anxiety and current strategies used to replace/reduce/calm.

Think about what adaptations need to be made/what supports are needed to best include your child in group instruction e.g. visuals for calendar time/ about me book for circle time/ a type to talk App etc
Tell the teacher what skills your child already had e.g. she knows the wheels on the bus and all get body parts.

Pop over to Keira’s Facebook page to find more invaluable support and advice.x

Parent’s Advice – 

Monika C keep a diary of every comment a teacher makes and details of every meeting you have with the school. Note that child may become anxious going in to and out of school with hundreds of other children and arrangements may need to be made to bring / collect earlier. Become best friend to the classroom assistant as she will be a very valuable resource where sna hours have to be fought for.

Colin R- Same as MoniKa but create a diary that in the morning you date it and write in how your child is ie stressed anxious angry etc and then request the teacher to fill it in each day again dated to tell you if there were any incidents meltdowns or even better that they had a good day, this can then be kept and shown at any meetings with the school re SNA or any other help you are fighting for as it gives a fairly detailed account of their life in school.It’s a great idea, we had issues with getting any help in school and we brought out the diary for the SENO to read and then things happened as it left him with no choice.

Bridget D – If possible, visit the school before your child starts and take lots of photos of the classroom, teachers they will have, play area etc. Then you can use these to make a social story to help prepare your child, it really helps.

Sandra M-  Encourage and take every day as it comes 😀

Marie C- Be Educated on what accommodations your child is entitled to and when requesting anything put it in writing to the school but always remember you are your child’s voice. If your child has already done a year/years in the school and changing teacher request a meeting with teacher they are leaving with the new teacher so they can talk through what works and what DOESN’T work don’t assume this will happen automatically even in a small school like I thought.

Bernie P – For the kids.. Have a photo schedule & social story, go through the uniform (like a dress rehearsal) a week before school starts & explain 7 sleeps. Nothing worse then 1st day & school uniform refusal because they’ve never seen it before or tried it on. Same goes for selecting school bag/lunchbox. Involve them in the picking so it’s fun! School should provide the communication diary (but ask about it that 1st week) Dont stress about the beautiful 1st day school photos of they don’t want them. It’s an anxious enough time for them. Get stickers & iron on labels for everything. Constant replacement of colours/cases/lunch boxes/ jumpers & coats is expensive.
For the parents, try not to become over whelmed by the thoughts of the preschool or mainstream school your child should have been going to if they are going into an Autism class/preschool/school. They are going in the direction exactly where they should be going for them to blossom! Enjoy!

Angie G- as above visual aids. I got teacher to tell me other kids names in class (5) then i say these names as he gets dressed in the morning. I got the school to send me pecs photo of the school instead of a universal school picturetry to get as independant with coat and carrying school bag. Sing wheels on the bus before bus comes and give loads of hugs.

Emma C- Don’t get mad and tell the teacher to go and F herself…they WILL take offence 😉 (True indeed Emma, diplomacy is everything!)

Anne C M- My ds is starting in an autism unit got them to send me visuals which I have and I’m gonna send in a notebook for comments on how his day goes.. but ill also be making a passport of my son as he’s only few words so ill be writing his likes/dislikes and a general description of him as his last report he’s come on so much since then… best of luck ladies to all your little ones starting.. I’d love to be a fly on the wall xx

Mary Anne Mc C-  Loads of encouragement and praise. Take every day as it comes. It’s not a race kids work to there own ability.

Anne H- Write to the teacher day 1. List your child’s needs/strengths and weaknesses. Enclose copies of any reports from assessments etc but in your own words introduce them to your child. With class sizes these days can take a while to get to know kids. Make sure teacher understands your child from day one. Have done this since jun infants and teachers always thank me. You can’t depend on management or other teachers to share.

Paula H- This is a very emotional time for both parents and children it can be full of anxiety and pride. … see if you can arange a time to visit the class room before hand when there’s as few people there as possible so that your child can get the lay of the land so that the room at least is a familiar place /paces ask if you can take phtos of the school and their class room to use at home to show your child visually where their going. See if you can arrange a one on one meet n great between your child and their teacher an SNA before hand for the same reason as above with the class room . Also explain everything you can in a very positive way the new wonderful school adventure your child will be starting to your child so that your child can know as far as is possible what to expect. A social story might be a good way of doing that having a chat with you child’s teacher can help you with this to know what their general routine so you’d have a good idea of what to write. If you’ve been able to take phtos of the school class room yard , class toilet teacher and SNA include these in your social story . Idea * check out Kate wilde ‘ s book Autistic logistics it has a great chapter on the power of explanations . It’s also full of great information for parents and teachers and SNA’S on why children may have certain behaviours and has good advice on how to help and support the child it doesn’t deal with school specifically but the strategies are very common sense based so can be helpful in both school and home settings. Also make sure you start a communication book between you your child’s teacher and SNA. This way you can let each other know important information and I’d include positive things too not just difficulties .and mishaps and incidents . Eg if you’ve had a particularly positive experience at home write if in so that the teachers an SNA can say well done to your child too descritely of course if that’s needed and if it can be shared with the class and your ok with that let them. know. Maby your child has a particular topic or activity they love if appropriate let them know about it it could be a useful motivator for your child that coul dc be incorporated or included into resources time to social learning. Not as a bribe to do A B an C . But by building trust and getting to know the child as every one is an individual and as way to encourage them in a fun way. Also remember you the parent know your child better than any one. You are the expert on your child. Developing good communication with your child’s school teacher and SNA will stand to you all very best of luck to you all in September .

So there you have it, a quick read but an advice packed post from both parents and also Behavior Consultant Keira Keogh. If you would like to add your advice to this post, please comment below!

For more advice and information; have a read of my post on what to include in your child’s Communication Passport in this post and also my post called Special Needs Back to School Checklist. 

As always pop over to our Facebook Page to find out what we get up to most days in The Little Puddins House 


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