As the summer winds down, we start to notice more stores decking out with fall decorations, and pumpkin flavored everything becomes the harbinger of autumn. Whether we are ready or not to say goodbye to the sunnier months, back to school season is in front of our eyes before we know it. But what to do when you are a parent of a child with Down syndrome?
However exciting a new school year might be, it’s hard to get back into the rhythm of schedules; and for parents of children with Down syndrome, it might take a bit more strategizing. That’s why we asked the LuMind IDSC community of experienced parents to give us some valuable tips and ideas to keep in mind when getting our kids ready for school.
START A FEW WEEKS AHEAD OF TIME:
Mike from Mississippi says: “People with Down syndrome often struggle with transitions. Preparing my child for transitioning from summer vacation to school means starting that process weeks before school starts. We do social stories, we practice routines, and we talk about expectations. The more he knows what to expect, the better he will do. It’s my job to set him up for success.” Mike also recommends keeping it fun, for instance, doing some dry runs and celebrating with a special treat!
Kimberly from Pennsylvania also suggested to “move up the bedtime as your kiddo is most likely going to be extra tired the first week or so of school.”
Melanie from Florida and Laureen from South Carolina both agreed that “setting alarms, going to bed and waking up earlier and having mealtimes on a schedule that mimics the school schedule will help with the transition.”
PLAN THE STRUCTURE OF YOUR NEW SCHEDULE:
Shannon from Idaho has a system that helps her kids get back into the structure of school itineraries:
“I put the bedtime and morning routines down in writing with check boxes my kids can mark off when complete. Then they have a small reward for completing all the items by a certain time!”
Melanie from Florida also had the idea of creating a picture chart. “I laminated it so we can dry erase the check marks. I also have a calendar in the room with the countdown of how many days to go.”
Linda from Colorado, a mom of two girls with Down syndrome has a system that she previously discusses with her daughters. This system makes the transition from summer to school year easier for her family: “We make sure that backpacks are unloaded the night before so there are no surprises in the morning. We have a set time schedule, and the girls know their schedules. They get up 30 minutes apart and then they have 10 minutes to wake up, go to the bathroom and come to the table. They get 30 minutes for eating breakfast, taking medicine and vitamins. After that they have 20 minutes to get dressed, brush their teeth, wash their faces, and comb their hair. At last, they get 10 minutes to pack up their lunch and backpack.”
DON’T FORGET TRANSPORTATION:
Laureen from South Carolina reminded us of the importance of discussing transportation to and from school: “If your child does not take a bus, be sure to discuss pick up and drop off. If necessary, send a note into school letting the teachers know the plan. Open lines of communication with one or more teachers will be a lifesaver.”
SOME THINGS CAN BE DONE THE NIGHT BEFORE:
After the school year has begun, performing small tasks each night will make your mornings easier. Shannon from Idaho is a proponent of getting things ready the night before: “I let my kids pick out their clothes, make their lunch and get their backpacks and shoes by the door the night before.”
HELP THE TEACHER GET TO KNOW YOUR CHILD:
In some cases, if this is the first time your child is going to school or if they have a new teacher, Kimberly from Pennsylvania advised sending a letter or having a conversation with the teacher: “talk about what helps and hurts their learning environment. Or just touching base with the teacher to make sure you are all on the same page is important too.”
Melanie from Florida said: “We also make a little ‘about me’ sheet for the boys to bring to school to help the teachers get to know them a little better.”
Beth from Mississippi had an important suggestion in the instance that the teacher doesn’t have training or experience with children with Down syndrome: “When my son was younger, I always bought his teacher a copy of the book Behavior Solutions for the Inclusive Classroom. The simple book was a quick and handy reference for behaviors.”
Download the All About Me form from myDSC. This is a useful resource where you can easily fill out information about your child such as likes, dislikes, eating habits, strengths, etc.
TAKE THEM SHOPPING, IT WILL GET THEM EXCITED:
Mike from Mississippi takes advantage of going shopping to get his son excited about starting the new school year: “Now that my child is in high school, his clothes have become important to him. I take him shopping for school clothes and let him pick out his outfits. When he’s excited about his new clothes, he gets excited about wearing them to school too!”
Adrienne from Georgia reminded parents that patience is key. “Be patient in general for at least the first two weeks. Teachers are getting to know their new students and kids are getting to know their teachers, all while new routines are being established.”
FINALLY, TREAT YOURSELF:
Laureen from South Carolina also reminded parents that self-care is important, it will prevent burn-out, and it might help you even enjoy the transition: “Take a few minutes for yourself, get a massage, or pedicure. Treat yourself to your favorite restaurant or crawl back into bed for a bit of uninterrupted rest. Whatever counts as self-care for you! Enjoy these years as they go by faster than you think.”
A special thanks to all the parents who kindly provided us with their experiences and ideas and shared them with the rest of the LuMind IDSC community.
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