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What’s on your special needs back to school checklist?
Back to school season tends to start early – often as soon as the 5th of July in the US. As a full-time educator, I always want to get a jump on things for my own kids – without reminding myself of how quickly my own summer is flying by.
My neurotypical kid has a clear-cut list by grade level (which from grades K-6 we actually ordered through the school, freeing me entirely from the back to school aisle!). Mr. Diggy’s teachers, however, usually request a more practical, year-round set of supplies.
Instead of a three-subject notebook, a three-pack of paper towels. Instead of a value pack of pens or highlighters, a value pack of cleaning wipes or tissues. I’ve found it’s best to ask the teacher what he or she needs or wants for the classroom (and, as the perennial special ed room parent, I send that list out to the other families in case they want to participate as well).
Here are five simple ways to prepare for back-to-school season with your special needs back to school checklist:
Have you tried using Google calendar to maintain your sanity? I have found that having several layers of shared calendars helps me keep track of everything in our special needs family. We have one for Mr. Diggy that is shared with the entire team, and then my husband and I each use one – inviting each other to relevant events as needed. Because our childcare situation is complex, it helps me see when I have a meeting that conflicts with Back to School Night, or there is a game that conflicts with Occupational Therapy. And then we can figure out a Plan B (or often C or D!) before that event is upon us.
Make a Communication Plan
Is child non-verbal or verbally limited? Maybe he or she just has difficulty summarizing “what we did today” or “what we need to do for tomorrow.” Then communication logs can be a helpful tool. There are many standard templates available. If you want to see one that I’ve created, click here:
Revisit the IEP
Of course, most of the parent-teacher communication for a non-verbal child with special needs is about A) basic needs and B) progress toward IEP goals. So back to school season is an important time to consider any adjustments that may be required with a new teacher/classroom/school year. For example, Mr. Diggy will move from a room with an attached bathroom, to a room with a separate bathroom – we are looking at how that will affect staffing needs, as well as prompting and communication around toileting.
Master a gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free treat
All classrooms seem to have at least one kid with a dietary restriction, and special needs classrooms may have many kids with multiple food-related challenges. All of this can make birthdays and other celebrations a little bit trickier. Over the years, I have returned again and again to this recipe for sunflower butter brownies. It manages to be gluten-free, dairy-free AND nut-free – plus they really taste good. Like so good that even the staff without dietary restrictions want to eat them.
Grab a welcome back gift for the teacher (and other staff!)
Speaking of the staff – I do like to bring them a treat as well. I will usually bake some zucchini bread (because by August, we are literally drowning in zucchini!) – and if I’m feeling fancy, throw a handful of summer blueberries in the recipe (in lieu of nuts or raisins). And of course, the extended staff (OT, SLP, ABA team, classroom aides, etc.) always appreciate a fresh back-to-school Color Street manicure. So many fun options, one-size-fits-all and a great pick-me-up for the new school year.
Ever thought about being a special needs room parent? I shared reasons you should consider it on messybun.life here.
Teachers: How to do a Mani on Your Prep via Refresh