Back-to-school is an exciting time, but for children with cerebral palsy or other disabilities, it can also be very challenging and stressful.
It may go without saying, but no two kids are the same, and every child’s home and learning environments are unique. That said, there are several things that can be key to a child with cerebral palsy starting their school year off right.
Tips for supporting your child’s return to school
Here are a few tips that will hopefully help make the back-to-school transition a bit easier for children with cerebral palsy.
- Put time into your child’s IEP. Many children with cerebral palsy will qualify for an individual education plan (IEP). An IEP is a written legal document that outlines the type of instruction and services your child will receive during their time in the public school system. An IEP can help parents better understand how special education services will best support their child’s learning processes.
Make sure your child has any adaptive equipment and materials that are needed (special scissors, adapted pencils, adapted footwear/clothes, or assistive technology).
- Start getting up early before the first day of school, so that your child will be used to the routine.
Try to meet the teachers, integration support team, administrative support staff, and the principal before school starts. This will help lessen anxiety.
- Communicate with your child’s attendant. Be sure they have an understanding of when your child needs assistance and when they need independence.
Create a one-page info sheet about your child’s needs, preferences, and interests. This will help the team engage with your child and better understand the challenges your child faces. This sheet could also be used for substitute teachers during the school year.
- Know that not everyone will « get it right ». Even the most well-intentioned teachers and school staff sometimes make mistakes or are not attentive to your child’s unique needs. When such an incident occurs, your child may wish to address the situation themselves. If they don’t, ask your child whether or not they want you to reach out to the faculty or staff member to discuss the incident.
- Discuss the transition with your current team of therapists as they may have some great tips.
- Identify any same-grade peers that may be a good buddy for your child and let the school staff know.
Get familiar with the school
Before school starts, visit the school and classroom. Do a tour to familiarize your child with the school layout such as the gym, library, and outdoor spaces.
While on a school tour, look for any potential issues that may arise in the environment. Make staff aware if adaptations to the environment need to be made.
Review the school calendar, routines, and expectations with your child so that there won’t be any surprises.
Don’t forget… Make it fun!
For younger students, read books about going back to school, do something special on the first day of school, and try to make the transition as enjoyable as possible.
Happy back-to-school season from Ubique! Have a great year!