Surviving Back To School In Your Exceptional Family

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So here we are. Another school year beginning, or in our case, having already begun. The first few days are always a mix of a lot of different things, both positive and negative. Some of our exceptional kids are so happy to be back to structure and seeing their friends, that it does not really sink in that soon work and homework will be following close behind. Others are upset immediately about the change in routine and it is pure chaos for parents. Still, then there are the kids that fall somewhere in the middle of all of this. Michael is probably in that category primarily, but right now thankfully, he is still in camp 1. He is slowly transitioning to camp 2 though, if this morning was anything to go on. Yes, this morning on our day 3 of school came the questions about when work and homework would start, as well as the anxiety that surrounded it.  What I have learned over the last year, particularly with our challenging home behaviors last year, is that when Michael is feeling stressed, it is hard for him to self-regulate. He will raise his voice, swear, scream and as a last resort, push or hit. The last part thankfully, has not been happening, though I see it is slowly trying to emerge. Instead, this year armed with good self-regulation techniques from last year, a reward for using his cooldown room, and moving towards building a consistent after school and evening schedule, I know we are on the right track.

But what can parents do if they do not know where to start with their child’s anxiety and how to structure the new school year? Well, first it starts with the family sitting down, taking a long, deep breath and gathering information to share with their child’s new team as soon as possible. Here are some points to get your exceptional child off on the right track this school year:

  1. Prepare Your Child By Counting Down The Days To School Starting: This is an easy one. On a calendar or dry erase board, count down till school starts.
  2. Drive By School/Take Pictures: Make Sure Forward To At End Of First Day: Whether your child is excited or not, have something for them to look forward to at the end of their first day.
  3. Prepare Information About Your Child For Teacher: Now, this does not mean to give him/her your child’s life story on the first day of school, but let them know what they are like. Have a little package of therapy reports, assessments ready. But mainly, write up a little paragraph on who your child really is. Tell them in person too when you have a chance to meet with them one on one.
  4. Be Ready For Tantrums and Meltdowns During First Month: Be ready for the honeymoon period with school to end when the challenges of learning begin.
  5. Make Sure You Practice Self-Care Before and During Back To School: Make sure that you have your own self-care strategies to handle your own emotions and to regulate properly. You and your family need you to be at your best at this high stress time.

Exceptional Parents, what techniques have been successful for you and your family during back to school? What hasn’t worked? Remember, as your child grows up, they change and they may need different interventions. Should a basic back to school schedule not be enough, don’t be afraid to reach out for outside help for you and your child. Your child’s team at school is the best prepared in most cases to help, but reach out in your community too for therapists and coaches to help you set up a good schedule for home and back to school. Remember, you and your child are not alone and give the whole family a month to adjust to the new back to school schedule. Until next time.

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