For so many parents of Autistic children, the thought of that first year of Kindergarten can be terrifying and completely overwhelming. September of 2018 my soon to be five-year-old Autistic/SPD daughter will be starting her first year in Kindergarten. The same month my 12-year-old Autistic/ADHD son will be starting his first year in middle school. I’m so scared I’ve been having dreams about the first day. It’s only January and my mind is already going there.
Since I’ve enrolled and successfully integrated one of my special needs kids into Elementary School I thought I’d give out some tips to put your minds at rest. My son is in grade six, which means I’ve been dealing with the public school system for seven years now. Some of my past posts will inform you that it is not easy advocating for a special needs child in a public school system. Check out IEP’s, ISP’s, IHCAHN’s, BI’s….. w;ahienoya and That last first day set him up for failure for a small look into my dealings with the public school system.
One thing I have learned, once you find the school that is best suited for your child, register as early as possible. There is a high demand for good schools. Other parents will want to grab a spot, even if they aren’t in the catchment. Here in BC Canada registration opens up in February. I had a call two weeks ago with my daughter’s development worker about which school I wanted her in. The earlier you can secure a spot, the better. If the school knows that a special needs child will be attending in advance, it’s a lot easier for them to secure EA’s and make necessary adjustments. I’ve set up a date for my Little Miss Psychopath to tour the school, see her classroom and meet some of the staff shortly after registration.
Meet The Student Services Teacher
It is so important to establish a relationship early on with the student services teacher and the principal. The SST is the person who will be helping you get your child what they need. They are the person you advocate too and work with to establish help and support within the school. Make friends and play nice with this person, but also stand your ground and make it clear early what you know your child needs. It is so helpful if you have some of your team, BI’s or workers, to attend your first meeting with the SST. It is much more supportive and easier to have someone who works with the child in other settings.
Prepare your child as much as you can. Especially if you know they don’t handle change well, and if they have a problem with switching tasks. Little Miss Psychopath has that initial pushback, so I’m well aware that the first day might be REALLY hard for her. She gets anxious about any type of change, so she is being prepared now in her therapy sessions for when she goes to Kindergarten next year. She even has anxiety about turning five because she knows it means starting Kindergarten soon.
Another great way to prepare is to enroll in an independent Pre-School. Little Miss Psychopath has been going to Montessori Pre-School for two years now. Last year she attended with a worker and this year she has been able to go on her own, which is amazing! It has helped her so much to be able to socialize in an unfamiliar setting without me there.
Preparing Is Key!
One more great thing to do to prepare is to write down what they are struggling most with. This might include the problems you think may come out in a public setting where you aren’t present. When my Sir.E went to school he didn’t understand how to communicate properly so problems came out in behavior. He would get extremely physical and he didn’t have the support he needed. Little Miss Psychopath doesn’t yet know how to ask for the things she needs. So, she just suffers through until she’s so overwhelmed she can’t function. This means I will let the school know as soon as we sit down together that she has SPD and needs breaks in the “snoozleum room”. When they are going to be in louder settings I want her to have headphones on to avoid a meltdown. Letting your new team at school know these things ahead of time will help take some of your anxiety away and will help your child at school.
A New Team
It’s hard to have a new team for your child. This is something I’m struggling with for both of my special needs children this year. For Sir.E our middle school and elementary school work very well together. The two teams sit down together with me and the elementary passes all their information to the middle school. I’m present to help answer any questions and help set goals. I’m so glad this is the process they take, it makes me feel like we’re gently being transitioned. It’s a great way to do things, and it will make it easier for Sir.E’s teachers at the middle school to understand and help him cope.
I already have an established relationship with Little Miss Psychopath’s new team since Sir.E attended. If this is your first time, make sure you take the time to get to know this new team. Being an advocate is not easy and school is definitely one of the most challenging parts of having a special needs child.
At the end of the day, YOU know your child. You know what they need and who they are. One of the best things I’ve found about having a special needs child is that they rely on me so heavily, that no one knows them like I do. I know every look and every action. I have the ability so many special needs parents have of being able to analyze a situation perfectly every ten seconds and know how my child will react and perform. That awesome spidey sense you get once you start raising a special needs child.
Most importantly, make them feel supported by you through this process. It’s so much easier to handle HUGE transitions like this when they know you’re there. Kindergarten is one of the biggest life changes a child goes through. I am very grateful that we have an integrated start in our school district, it makes it SO much easier for children.
How have you prepared your kids for Kindergarten? Are you public, home or private school?
Any q’s shoot them below as always!