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Help Smooth out the Transition to a New School Year

Deanne Shields

Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it. So said Anne, in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s novel Anne of Green Gables. I like to think that the beginning of each new school year is like this, fresh with no mistakes, fresh with new teachers, fresh with new optimism! Sometimes, however, it doesn’t feel so fresh. Many children feel defeated before the school year begins; they dread going back into the classroom. Many parents, myself included, dreaded the upcoming homework tears, the repeated conversations with teachers about my child’s ‘hidden disability’ and helping my child feel optimistic about the new year when I didn’t always feel that way myself.

The following are some suggestions about things parents have done to help smooth out that transition to the new school year.

Prepare to speak with your child’s teacher(s) before school begins. Sit down with your child and help them come up with a list of:

  • Things they are good at.

  • Things that are difficult.

  • Things that help them do better in class, and

  • Things that make it more difficult.

Examples could be:

  • I’m good at PE, art, helping others, following directions, remembering what I hear...

  • Spelling, reading quickly, holding a pencil correctly, copying notes from the board, understanding what I’ve read, timed multiplication tests, anxiety.

  • Give me the notes before class, audiobooks, calculator, spell checker, sitting in the front of the room, let me have a secret signal when I’m confused or stressed, working with a peer, tests read aloud, a quiet place to do work, don’t give too many directions at once or at the end of class when we’re cleaning up.

  • Having a student correct my assignment, making me write on the board in front of the class, reading aloud.

After, have your child practice explaining these things to you or another trusted person so they can share this, with your support, to their teacher(s). If they don’t feel comfortable doing this, have them go with you while you share what they have told you.

  • Print out information sheets about your child’s disability to give to the teacher.

  • Help your child understand their learning disability, IEP goals, 504 plan, accommodations etc. so that they can be a partner in working with their teachers and also be able to advocate when they need something.

  • Meet with the teacher(s) before the start of school. Have your child share their prepared list. We hear that some teachers do not get a notification that a child has an IEP or 504 until weeks after school starts. So it’s a good time to let them know.

  • Ask the teacher how to best communicate back and forth with them if the teacher has a blog that posts downloadable copies of assignments, notes, etc. even better, volunteer to help in class!

  • If your child is moving to different classes during the day, practice opening their locker. practice walking to each class, the locker, etc.

  • Help them plan what they need to bring and how often they need to go back to their locker.

  • Help them find the restrooms and lunchroom.

  • Have a plan for if/when your child gets anxious, overwhelmed, etc. Perhaps there is a teacher, secretary, librarian, or other trusted adult they can go to for help. Sometimes getting a drink or going somewhere quiet for a couple of minutes helps.

These are some suggestions but we know that there are parents and teachers out there who have got a great beginning of school plan. Please share your ideas on our Facebook post to help other parents who are stressing out about the beginning of the school year too!


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