Getting Organized for Back to School: Children with Special Needs

Getting ready for the new school year can be hectic no matter what. But having a child with a disability means there are a few additional things to think about. Whether your child has an Autism Spectrum Disorder, dyslexia, Downs Syndrome, or a physical impairment, here are a few general tips to help keep them on a track to success for the upcoming school year:

1. Electronics: If your child uses any mode of assistive technology from an iPad to take notes to a Dynavox to communicate make sure that they are always charged. Develop a routine for charging them at a certain time every night (after your child has gone to bed, so they do not miss it). For communication devices, since they tend to have a shorter battery life, consider including an additional battery. Your child's device is essential for their academic and social success, so make sure they are always ready to be used when your child heads off to school.

2. Special Services: Your child may be in a special education classroom, but many children with disabilities receive additional services too, like physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech language therapy, etc. Try to have these appointments secured before the school year begins if they offered by out-of-school providers. For in-school providers, check in with the appropriate personnel (a student services coordinator or a case manager) at the start of the school year to ensure that your child will be receiving all of the services that they are entitled to - its the law.

3. Other Extracurriculars: Extracurriculars are an important part of any child's development. Ask around for playgroups, swimming lessons, or maybe set up a regular play date. Many museums, libraries, community centers, zoos, and science centers have weekly groups for children with a range of abilities. The New York Transit Museum even has a special program for children on the autism spectrum who like trains! Setting the wheels in motion now will help reduce your stress as the school year commences.

4. Hygiene & Safety: To make things easier for yourself, try to make a checklist of essentials that your child may need during the day, whether its diapers, pureed food, or other objects to enhance their daily living. In addition, send along important contact information, and give your child an identification badge or card with contact information too, so he/she can introduce themselves, even if they are non-verbal.

5. Labels: Your child may lose their objects from time to time, so label them to make sure they find they way back! Labels can include: your child's name, a contact phone number, your child's schools name, address, room number, and/or teachers name. Make labels to put on their backpacks, lunch boxes, and assistive technology devices.

Have a great school year!

About the author: Jules Csillag, BA, MS, CCC-SLP is a licensed speech-language pathologist and learning specialist who works in New York City. She is passionate about technology, special education, and alternative education.

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