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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:
[*]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.

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?


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"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free." — Frederick Douglass