Experts share tips for transitioning kids with special needs back-to-school

Making the back-to-school process easier
Making the back-to-school process easier
Published: Aug. 2, 2022 at 9:55 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - With the start of a new school year right around the corner, your daily routine is likely about to change and it can be overwhelming for parents and students.

Getting back in the school swing of things can be difficult for parents and students, but experts with UAB said it can be even more stressful for kids with special needs.

“It’s really important for their anxiety and many times their fears are very real,” Professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Education, Dr. Jennifer Kilgo, said. “It’s a new environment, new expectations, and new people to adjust to. It can be a little bit difficult. A little challenging in the beginning.”

For kids with special needs, Kilgo said transitioning into a structured school environment can cause extra stress, depending on their abilities.

“The most important thing is to feel accepted,” she said. “Having their needs understood and being able to participate, so they aren’t left out.”

Kilgo said you can prepare them in advance by telling them early about school expectations, waking up in the morning, and even driving to the new school so they can check it out.

“Show them charts or things to help them understand that this will be the same as before, but this is how they are going to be different,” Kilgo said. “Read stories about going back to school with younger children. Just make sure that the routine is stable and consistent and make sure that the child knows the expectations.”

Dr. Kilgo said for kids with special needs, make sure you share with their teacher about how best to communicate with them or any other information that could help them during the day.

“Share their likes, dislikes, triggers, things that can be upsetting, and ways to get around these things,” Kilgo said.

She said another way to avoid the back-to-school morning meltdown is by giving them choices. She recommends asking them things like ‘do you want the red or blue coat?’ versus ‘go put on your coat.’ She said that helps the child feel like they had a choice in the matter.

Click here for more tips on transitioning into back-to-school.

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