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How Back to School Is Different for Families of Kids With Disabilities

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By now we have all seen the ads and gone to the stores for those big savings. We may have even seen the excitement with our own family and friends. It is that time of year when so many parents are truly giddy because they are preparing to send their little ones off to school each day. They are happy to hand over the reins to their teachers and other school leadership.

Numerous school activities will be revving up soon as well. Many moms and dads are looking forward to the bus pickups or the car drop off zone and having some time for themselves.  However, parents of children and youth with disabilities or health care needs may be a bit anxious about sending their little ones off to school.

When you are the parent of a child with disabilities or health care needs, the new school year is about more than backpacks, school supplies, clothing and shoes. Parents must prepare for Individualized Education Plans (IEP) and other planning meetings that will ensure the child is truly the center of their educational journey. Before one school year comes to an end, the planning already begins for the next year. Parents are often scheduling appointments over the summer so they have all notes and medical records that will be needed at school.

A back to school list for a child with additional needs can include:

  • Notes/letters/directions from doctors, therapists, etc.
  • Medicine lists and schedules
  • Dietary needs; special food and supplies
  • Medical equipment
  • Extra clothing
  • Emergency contacts

That very important list can vary depending on the needs of the child. It can be much shorter or much longer.   This can be overwhelming for some parents and cause them to not be as excited about the upcoming school year.  A little preparation and support can help calm their nerves. Parents can seek out support from family members as well as through local organizations that advocate for children and families with disabilities. Always remember you as the parent are the best advocate for your child. Your voice matters!

As the school year approaches, remember those among you that have to go the extra mile with their little ones to get them prepared for school. Some do not just send them to school, some have to go with them or be there more than most to ensure their child receives an appropriate education and in an environment that is least restrictive and most inclusive. Here’s to all children having a safe and productive school year!

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” –Nelson Mandela

Getty image by Sbelov.

Originally published: August 13, 2019
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