Lee este artículo en español con un click en este enlace,
I’ll never forget my son’s 1st day of school. That was 7 years ago the same day he turned 3 years old. Letting my child stay at school the day we should be celebrating his 3rd anniversary was not an easy task for me to process. He was a tiny little boy. He didn’t know how to chew properly yet, he wasn’t potty trained and his vocabulary had only one word: Mama.
I couldn’t imagine him climbing into a school bus and heading up to school by himself. I couldn’t picture him far from me, far from his “mama” for a whole day, when actually, it was me who didn’t have a clue as to what to do without him.
If you are the parent of a child with special needs who’s close to his 3 years old of age, you’re probably in the process of transition from the early intervention federal agency to the school system. The paradoxical part of this experience is that when some parents of typical kids are dreaming for their brood to start school soon, many of us (parents of kids with special needs) have a really hard time to letting them go so early.
Based on my experience these are 6 common fears parents of children with special needs may face when it’s time to start school and some tips on how to face these issues to ease the transition and foster more success for both parent and child.
- Fear #1: Language and Communication. Most kids with special needs who start school at the age of 3 are not fully verbal yet. Many of them will never be. The most important thing to do, if this is the case of your child, is to bring the necessary tools to make communication easier between him and the teacher. Your child’s teacher should be a trained professional, ready to start his individualized education plan, but providing her with information about signs he may use or pictures that will facilitate his way of communicating, is always a great idea. Language and speech therapies should be included as services under your child Individualized Plan of Education, known as IEP. All these services will be previously discussed in the IEP meeting.
- Fear #2: Behavior! Many times, we (parents) feel irreplaceable and like nobody else can understand or take care of our kids. If you know how to help your child to control the fear or anxiety affecting her behavior, talk with the teacher about it. Together you may find a positive way to make him feel secure and understand this new environment. Your child doesn’t need to face all those challenges alone just because you are not with him or her. Instead, they need to learn to trust others in order to grow and gain independence.
- Fear#3: Potty training. Special education classroom have these concerns covered and the potty training can be included as well as a part of your child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP). It’s expected that your child may need extra help and these needs will be addressed in order to help your child succeed in close collaboration between home and school.
- Fear#4: Bullying or Abuse at School. This is a very delicate and understandable concern. We don’t want our kids to be bullied or abused, and many times we feel helpless at the time of letting them go to school knowing that they can’t communicate about the things they like or may dislike while they’re there. Pictures are very useful to address this issue. Talk to the teacher about your concerns. Request a written calendar of activities so you know what he’s supposed to be doing each day, and how to ask him simple questions about his day that he may respond to with a simple yes or no. For example, did you eat pizza today? Was it good? Pay special attention to his behavior and, if it comes up, never force your child to attend school without understanding why he doesn’t want to go.
- Fear#5: School bus. Special education school buses are an adapted service for kids with disabilities. Your child will be seated in a car seat, booster or using a seat belt, depending on his weight, height, and special needs. The special education school bus is also supposed to give your child extra time if he encounters challenges when climbing up and into the bus.
- Fear#6: Medical Needs, Medications and more. That can also be addressed between you, the teacher, and the school nurse. If you still feel insecure, ask the nurse to mark a calendar to confirm your child received his dose of medication every day. That’s a good visual reminder for her, and a good way for you to feel relieved of yet another stress.
Above all, talk to your child’s teacher, create a positive relationship with her and request her most convenient times to call to e-mail to check-in on your child. Perhaps express interest in pursuing different opportunities to volunteer and become an active and involved parent. These strategies will help you and your child be more successful in school and alleviate those common fears we parents of kids with special needs seem to face when they start school.