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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

New school year = rough transitions for some

August 20, 2008

My friend Kathy has a son with mild to moderate disabilities. Henry is going into third grade this year, and I just got an email from her:

"Back to school" has special meaning for Henry. Transitions are tough for him, so these first few weeks of getting adjusted are hard for everyone. I know things will eventually settle down, but I wish these this time of year could be easier. So many tantrums, so many tears.

In Henry's case, he has an IEP in place and a special education team that will be looking out for him. For kids who struggle in school but don't have an IEP, this is a time of year when parents need to be extra vigilant. Do everything you can to make sure weeks of instructional time are not lost — your child doesn't have a moment to lose!

What can parents of struggling students do during these first few weeks of school? Here are a few ideas:
[list]
[*]Set up a conference with your child's new teacher. He or she is swamped right now, but see if you can't find a 10-15 minute window to sit down one-on-one. Advocate for your child's needs within the classroom. This article, Taking a Closer Look: My Child's Academic Success may be helpful.

[*]Help your child's new teacher get to know your child. What does he like and dislike? What subject areas are challenging for him? What extra support do you provide to your child? What are your goals for the year? Here's an example of a letter written by parents of a student with ADHD.

[*]Was your child tutored over the summer? If so, see if your tutor would be willing to write a summary of what they worked on and any work habits that may be useful for a teacher to know.

[*]Breathe. Your child will pick up on your anxieties. Trust that a few simple actions on your part will help your family get off to a great start.
[/list]

Want to read more on the topic? Check out a new article on our sister site LDOnLine called September Thoughts: Reflections on a New School Year.

My girls are having their first day of school today! I've got a special snack ready, and am planning for a nice quiet afternoon. How do you ease your transition to school?

Comments

I fond this article very interesting and could easily connect it in my experience working within an after school program. The beginning of a new school year is so stressful on students, as well as teachers. How can we provide the best environment to ensure students are feeling supported and that they can succeed?
I think the pointers of setting up a conference within the first few weeks is a great start. Being able to advocate for your child and their individual needs is so important especially early on. A lot of teachers will send home an “All about me “ assignment where students can talk a little bit about themselves and what their interests are. If more teachers incorporated this into the classroom setting then perhaps they could take these interests/likes and adapt them into the curriculum in some facet.

Hello! I really liked reading your article and I appreciate you calling attention to transitions and how difficult they can be for students. I recently read an article put out by the National Education Associate that stresses the importance of positive transitions for students. The article states that “a key indicator of successful middle school experience is a positive transition from elementary school.” I know this is the same for high school as well and this is a big statement! It reminded me that, as school counselors, we have a responsibility to create a transition program for students and offer extra support to them throughout their first year in middle school and in high school. This article focuses on what schools can do to make that happen. Check it out: http://www.nea.org/tools/16657.htm

This is a great article for parents of students with disabilities and even just students struggling to adjust to a new school year. As a future counselor, I can see how useful these tips would be for parents since often times going back to school brings a lot of stress and disruption to the schedule. I especially appreciated the point about taking a breath because children will pick up on the parents' anxieties. If you are nervous, your child will be nervous as well. Additionally, advocating for students with disabilities is so important regardless of IEP status. These kids can often fall through the cracks so parents must be vigilant in their children's education.

This is a great article for parents of students with disabilities and even just students struggling to adjust to a new school year. As a future counselor, I can see how useful these tips would be for parents since often times going back to school brings a lot of stress and disruption to the schedule. I especially appreciated the point about taking a breath because children will pick up on the parents' anxieties. If you are nervous, your child will be nervous as well. Additionally, advocating for students with disabilities is so important regardless of IEP status. These kids can often fall through the cracks so parents must be vigilant in their children's education.

As a future school counselor, I think this list is an excellent tool for parents of students who struggle with transitions. I would also add something to the list: see if you and your student can sit down with the school counselor as well. The counselor can become a resource for the student if there is some anxiety coming up about transitions and moving back into the swing of things. The list mentions that students without IEPs don't often have a team of people looking out for them, and this is true. Making the time to reach out to the school counselor would definitely have an impact on your student because then he or she would have someone else looking out for their academic progress and social adjustment. This also allows your student to know that there is another adult in the building watching out for them and ready to help with any anxiety that may come up not only in the first few weeks, but over the course of the school year.

I found this article to be helpful with myself in schools. I understand that transitions are hard, but especially hard for children with special needs. I enjoyed the advice that was given based on setting up meetings even though a teacher is busy. Knowing that the student might be struggling in the first few weeks and there is open communication, may make all the difference. Easing students into school is hard for any parent or teacher, but this article gave a few helpful tools for parents to utilize. At the start of this school year, I will take the time to help gather some information for myself, parents, and other teachers so that we can ease all our students into the school year with a little more help.

These are wonderful suggestions. I would also add to be in contact with your school counselor. She/He can either advocate for your child in the classroom or help empower your child to advocate for themselves when they are struggling. School counselors can work with your child to create strategies to use during times of struggle and how to communicate what they need.

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