Here are some of our back to school top tips for special needs families:
Use a Social Story to Develop Social Understanding
Social stories are a great tool in helping children with special needs to develop social understanding and prepare for upcoming events. With this in mind, they can be perfect for communicating to your child that they are soon to be going back to school.
Social stories can be as long or as short as you want them to be and can use PECs images or real photographs. A simple example might be a photograph of your child’s school uniform, their school transport, the school building and their teacher.
Your child’s school or Speech and Language Therapist might be able to provide you with some images to help – or even help you to create the social story itself - so make sure you ask!
Social stories can be reassuring for children with special needs as they help them to prepare for changes in routine and environment.
Lots of children with special needs take an arranged taxi or bus to school, which has a pupil transport assistant to support them. It’s important that the transport department of your local authority make you aware of any changes to your child’s transport in advance of the new school term. A different pupil transport assistant, taxi driver, vehicle or journey might cause confusion or be upsetting for your child, so knowing of any changes is key in helping to prepare them for the journey to school.
Adaptive School Uniform and Clothing
It’s important that your child is comfortable in their school uniform and any potential sensory issues are addressed as quickly as possible. Your child’s school should be understanding of the challenges that sensory processing difficulties can bring and should offer flexibility around uniform.
SpecialKids Company offers a range of clothing products that can help your child to feel more comfortable and secure, particularly if they find certain textures or types of clothing challenging. From seamless socks and bandana bibs to adapted polo shirts, there are lots of items available in our online store that can help.
Sensory issues can affect how your child copes at school and should be considered by everyone involved in their care. Sometimes it can help a child to have a certain object from home at school that they like the feel or smell of as it can be comforting. And don’t forget to pack some ear defenders if your child doesn’t like loud noises!
If you’re not providing a packed lunch for your child, ask your school for the canteen menu in advance so that you can help to identify any foods that your child will not want or be able to eat. This is particularly helpful if they struggle to communicate their needs or have sensory issues.
Remember to let staff know if they need any extra help, for example if food needs to be cut up into small pieces or if they are at risk of putting too much food in their mouth at once and choking.
Arrange To Meet With Your Child’s Teacher
You are your child’s advocate and no one knows them quite as well as you do. Arranging to meet your child’s teacher at the start of a new term is a great way to help with the transition of returning to school.
Perhaps your child’s likes and dislikes have changed during the holidays or you’ve found a new way of communicating with them, which is helping you both to interact better. Sharing is vital and knowledge is power. Keeping in regular contact with your child’s teacher helps to build a positive relationship and opens up communication between you both.
Provide A Written Update For The School
Perhaps you are unable to meet the teacher straight away at the start of the new term or life is just too hectic for another appointment. Providing a written update about the school holiday, either in your child’s school diary or in a letter to the teacher, is important.
You can let them know what your child has been up to during the holiday, who they’ve seen and what Santa brought them. And you can inform them of any changes to their behaviour, sensory issues or medical needs.
Communication is key!
We hope that these top tips help and that your child’s return to school goes well for you both.
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Swimming is a fantastic inclusive activity to do with children with special needs. It’s a great sensory experience that is good fun and has positive benefits for both physical and mental health. It is also an activity that can be done all year round and doesn’t have to be weather dependent (depending on where you choose to swim!).