Get Ready, Get Set, Go!
The first day of school is just around the corner for many students with disabilities. Excitement is in the air. However, many parents of students with disabilities tend to become anxious as well as their student. They really don’t know what to expect of their child’s teacher, especially when their child has a disability. For many students who learn to the beat of their own drum (and their parents), the summer provides a break from school/learning related issues- social, emotional, behavioral, suspensions, constant calls, etc. However, with the start of a new school year there is always the possibility of all those school/learning related issues rearing their ugly heads.
Being proactive is the key to help avert some of the anxiety that both students with disabilities and parents may feel. Change is difficult for all students, but this is especially true of students with disabilities. It’s important that both special and general education teachers take extra steps to ensure the best start to a new academic year.
1. Identify all the students with disabilities in your class. The special education teacher or anyone who does the scheduling should be able to help you with this. Remember, you don’t want to be on defense. It’s much better that you know who is in your class before they actually get there.
2. Obtain their modifications and accommodations. If you are the special education teacher, be proactive and gather those documents and pass them on to the general education teachers. Make them aware of any special assistance that may be needed. For example, a student who may need help toileting, writing, special routines, etc. No teacher should discover such things on the first day of school.
3. Communication is essential. Call the parent and introduce yourself. Ask them if there is any special information that they would like for you to know about their students with disabilities that may not be listed in their child’s records. Assure them that you look forward to working with them and having their child in your class. Parents really appreciate when you treat them as the expert on their child. Also, it’s always better to have them on your team from the beginning and making that one phone call in advance starts the trust that needs to be built between parent and school.
4. Invite the parent and student to come visit doing pre-planning. Some schools may have an Open House, but if they don’t have your own. This may not be needed for all students. But there are some students who don’t deal well with change, especially to a new environment, new classmates and a new teacher. Having the student and parent to meet you before the big day can ease a lot of anxiety and help make the adjustment to the new school year easier.
5.Think positively about your new school year and all your students. We know that all students bring about challenges at some point in time. The challenges can be more frequently for students who have a harder time staying seated or controlling their emotions. However, anyone responds to a smile and positive attitude. Simply expect that your students will come ready to learn and work the hardest in your class.
Hopefully these tips will help to ease any tension and stress and clear the path for a smooth school year. Have a fantastic new year!