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Top Tips on Preparing Your Special Needs Family for Back to School

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The new school year is right around the corner—are you ready? 

Here are some things I do to help our family transition from the laid back summer months to school ready come fall, and I hope they’ll help your family do the same.

I always start with the physical stuff— the things you can see with your own two eyes, and just know if it keeps piling up, it’ll result in a chaotic home by the end of the first week. Clutter. 

Especially paper clutter seems to come with school. And you’ll unknowingly miss those paper that needs signing, sign ups classroom parties or school supplies, and other important school functions because you misplaced the flyer (again). I don’t know about you, but I can definitely do with more calm this school year, and less chaos, amiright? So, let’s start there. 

Preparing for the new school year begins at home.

Preparing your home for the back to school season:

  1. Declutter. If you didn’t do it at the end of last school year, now’s the time to go through all the paperwork from last year and decide what you’re going to keep. If at all possible, I like digitized as much paperwork as possible. Anything that isn’t memorable or a keepsake from last year, it goes in the recycle or I scan it, and keep it in my google drive. 
  2. Decide. Decide where you’re going to keep all incoming paperwork. The girls know to unpack their backpacks after school, and place all paperwork in my wall file. Any art projects they want to show me goes on the top slot, anything that needs to be signed or paperwork for parents goes on the bottom slot. This ensures that we don’t miss any important paperwork. 
  3. Discard. Once I read over the paperwork, I immediately discard it. If it’s related to a function, I write down the event in my paper planner, on our family calendar, and on our shared google calendar. Anything that requires me to hang onto for any reason I like to take a picture of it, and attach it to the google calendar event. Anything I like to keep a copy of, I usually upload it onto our google drive. 
  4. Designate. Have designated areas for your child to keep their backpacks, shoes, jackets. Usually this is by the entry way or the mudroom. We have a small space, so we have a bench that house the kids backpacks, jackets, and misc. Misc are things like hats, gloves (when it gets chilly), and socks. 
  5. Delegate. If you’ve been around these parks for any amount of time, you’ll know that I’m a big believer in delegating. Outsource the things that doesn’t have to be done by you so it’ll save you time and money. The start of the school year tends to be hectic, and before you know it the holiday season would’ve arrived, and you’re left trying to figure out how it’s already halfway through the school year! 

If you can just the items listed above, you’re well ahead of the game. 

Paper clutter is awful. When I didn’t have a system in place, I would lose track of parent teacher conference sign ups, and fun evening events that weren’t listed on the school website. While, I’d love for us to all go digital, our schools still gives us way too much paperwork.

Preparing-Your-Special-Needs-Family-for-the-New-School-Year
My tiny little human’s FDOS photo from last year.

Preparing Your Child for the New School Year:

  1. Sleep. I know our kiddos aren’t the best sleepers (that’s an understatement). But if you want to be able to function well as a parent, and help your child make strides in school, they have to get more sleep. You need it, they need it, even if they don’t know it. Lack of sleep is a big one, and your child simply isn’t going to make as much progress in school as they would if they’re not getting adequate sleep. 
  2. After school routines. Having an after school routine in place helps your child to make the transition from the busyness of the school day to relaxing at home. I like to give the kids time to decompress their active minds, so everyone gets 30 minutes to be by themselves. If it’s a particularly nice day, we like to hang out at the school playground after school releases to get the wiggles out. Or we head over to the local park, and they like to run around. Kids tend to do a lot of sitting in school, so for our daughter with ADHD, and our son who thrives on gross motor activities having a physical outlet helps them to decompress. If the weather’s not cooperating, Jakes usually likes to lie in his bed, Alyssa reaches for a book, and Hailey loves drawing and word searches. 
  3. Evening routines. I’m a big believer in evening routines, because we simply have more control over our evenings than we do our mornings. Write out what you’d like your child to do in the evening. We have three kiddos, so our evenings can be quite lively around here. The girls have martial arts twice a week in the evenings, and soccer season resumes in the fall, so dinner starts at 6pm for us. After dinner, they all take turns hitting the showers, the girls pick out their outfits for tomorrow and have it set on top of their dressers ready to go. We give Jacob choices for outfits, and he’s able to select what he wants to wear the next day, and that’s set on top of his dresser. We read stories, and hang out in the living room until it’s bedtime. 
  4. Morning routines. Whenever I can, and as often as possible I try to stick with a good morning routine that helps set me up well for the day. I have my own personal morning routine that I share here, but for the kids their morning routine is quite simple: get up, get dressed, potty, brushed teeth, breakfast, and off to school. 

Before School Starts:

  1. Get any medical records requests in now. These could be records that you may need for an upcoming IEP, or if you intend on requesting more services for your child. 
  2. If your child is transitioning from elementary to middle school, or middle to high school, this is a good time to connect with your child’s new teacher prior to the start of the school year. This will give you both an opportunity to get to know one another, and for your child’s new teacher to learn more about your child. 
  3. Head over to the school website. They usually have the current year’s calendar of events up at least two-three weeks prior to the start of the school year. 
  4. Write out all of the important school dates: any school functions that may be listed on there, and make note of school holidays. This is especially important if you’re a working mama— planning for those breaks well in advance will give you ample time to plan for childcare for your children during that time or to take time off from work or your business if you’re able to do so. 
  5. And finally, one of my favorite must-dos a couple of weeks before school resumes is to revisit that summer bucket list. If there’s still time make, try to knock out one last item on your child’s list of places to visit or things they’d like to do over the summer. If your child is already in school, collect those pictures you took over the summer, and upload it onto google photos (FREE!). Google assistant makes fun videos from your memories, which will be fun for you to revisit come the first family movie night of the new school year. 

I sure hope these tips were helpful, and will set you up for success come September 3rd (which is the first day of school in the PNW– Pacific Northwest). If you haven’t done so already, make sure to snag your FREE Evening Routines Check-list here.

Related: Preparing for Your Next IEP

Related: Morning Routines for the Autism Mom

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