With school peering around the corner, it’s about that time I begrudgingly pick up my school anxiety. It’s different than regular anxiety because it’s solely based on hyper focusing on school at a rapid and repetitive pace. It’s not a good feeling but it’s one that has been a passenger in my minivan since the wee days of Mother’s Day Out. This year’s edition is called “What fresh hell is this? Deciding to transition back to public school after homeschooling during a pandemic.”
I have a son on the spectrum and kept him home with me all of last year. Without expectations and all of the input of information, I found myself overwhelmed with the weight of attending. So, we chose homeschool for the year for consistency purposes. There were many amazing ups but, alas, I am not a homeschool teacher. I mourn this because I live in awe of those who are able to do it. But, it just isn’t a card in my deck (and that’s ok!).
Accepting that it’s time to start talking about school, it got me thinking. How should I prepare Sam for the transition to public school? I can’t very well just show up to a strange building one day and say “Bye, Bro!” like my burned out and overstimulated self would encourage me to do while in the throes of a parenting challenge.
I came up with a plan to talk to my son who is on the spectrum about school in advance. Here are my tips!
🗯Talking- I started to talk to him about going to a new school. We looked up the mascot and school colors. We also took time to comb through their media pages to find pictures of happy kids and events.
📣Encouraging- I feel like if I keep saying “I’m so excited for this next adventure!” the words will stand up and become physical manifestations. Next year might be extremely challenging for us and I want to start off by letting Sam know that we are here and all of us are marching forward. We are his biggest cheerleaders and advocates. If/when there is something that he can’t handle, we are at the ready to step in and I want that fact ingrained in his brain and heart.
👏🏻 Setting him up for success- This one is hard for so many reasons especially if you’re new the special education in Texas. In the past, I have reached out the summer before school to request a meeting with the special education department. That has led to evaluations, procedures, meetings and at the end of it an IEP. I feel as if letting the school know what is coming down the road and setting the expectation and expected services (once determined)before the start of the year has only benefitted Sam. I encourage you to look into it to see if it’s right for your family. As Maya Angelou said “When you know better, you do better.”
♥️Knowing and explaining that there will be hard days- With any child there are hard days and sad faces sometimes. It can be gutting to hear something about your child’s day that upset them. Going in knowing that these days are coming and they are not specific to special needs parents but a challenge every mom faces helps. My kids and I have a very special place we go when one of us has been attacked by a particularly viscous day and during the school year is no exception. We grab our ice cream, go to our quiet spot, lay out our blanket and talk ( or not talk) for a bit. Even if the demands of homework are looming, we do this and if it’s a particularly emotional event, we skip the take home work ( I said what I said. Mental health matters.)
👫If you can, reach out to your child’s teacher for the upcoming year- This gives space for discussion before action. Letting her know what your child’s strengths and weaknesses are before the school year can help them to anticipate and evade behaviors. If your kiddo doesn’t like music, go ahead and let them know that it’s a challenge you’ve faced. I truly think that most educators want to see your child succeed and giving them the tools for that is imperative.
💻Also, ask if they’re up for some written correspondence from your child right before school; even if you have to type it for them. Have your child ask them questions, share their stories or address fears with them. The transition might go a little smoother as opposed to waiting until Meet the Teacher night when everyone is vying for their teacher’s attention. Small steps and adjustments like this could mean a world of difference.
Remember, we are all going into this post pandemic school year with caution and awareness. We know that last year was not the best for most kids. We know that we are all going in a little shell shocked and unsure. We know that there will be challenges as we stretch.
But, we also know that we have survived 100% of our really tough days so we have a good track record. We know we are in this together and that binding just can’t be undone.
So, we walk on, into the unknown and as prepared as we can be.
Photo Credit: Jennifer Rudolph Photography