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7 Essential Ways to Make Back-to-School Season Easier for Your Child With Disabilities

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As another school year begins, many parents think about the challenges of sending their children with disabilities to school. Here are seven ways to make this back-to-school season easier for your child with a disability.

1. Discuss your child’s disability at school with their teacher.

I would definitely recommend having an open discussion about your child’s needs with their teacher as soon as you can. Discussing ways you can help your child’s learning become more accessible is a beneficial decision because every child with cerebral palsy is different, and they may all need different accommodations.

2. Establish a back-to-school routine that works for both you and your child.

Going back to school can be overwhelming for your child — especially because they’re learning to navigate their disability at school. Coming up with a schedule that includes getting ready for school, doing homework with your child, and getting ready for the next school day will keep life consistent for your child and may make their life easier.

3. Discuss your child’s disability with your child and their classmates at school.

It can be overwhelming for a child with a disability to enter a new classroom with students they may never have met before, so be sure to tell your child’s classmates about your child’s disability. Young children may ask a lot of questions about disabilities, so it can be beneficial for parents of children with disabilities to talk with their child’s new classmates about their child’s needs and interests. This will allow your child to transition to their new grade more easily, and it can even start dialogue about disabilities between your child and the other students.

4. Allow your child to bring a comfort item from home to school if they can.

Not every school has the same rules, but if your child’s school allows it, bring your child’s favorite comfort object to school with them until they feel more comfortable. Students with disabilities may become overwhelmed by having to deal with a new teacher and classroom, but having a comfort item from home, like a stress ball, can help reduce their anxiety. If your child with disabilities also has anxiety or panic attacks, having something they love from home can help them feel like it will all be OK.

5. Go over your child’s individualized education plan (IEP) or 504 plan with them.

My mother wanted me to be fully aware of what was expected of me in the classroom, so she was open about reviewing my IEP with me every year. Reviewing your child’s accommodations or goals with them will help them know what’s going to be in store for them during the new school year. It may also make it easier for your child to adjust to their new grade.

6. Talk to your child’s school about allowing them different ways to sit.

Due to my cerebral palsy, I was given an hour-long period to get out of my wheelchair and stretch my body at school. They put a bean bag in the room so I could change positions whenever I needed to while still doing my classwork. If your child has pain from staying in one position for too long or struggles to sit still, having ways to make sitting down more comfortable is essential to learning.

7. Discuss options for inclusive activities in your child’s mainstream classes at school.

My school made sure I was involved in activities like field day and physical education and devised alternative plans to accommodate for my disability and still let me participate. Talk with your child’s teacher about ways to include them in all parts of school — even when they might struggle to do activities the same way as their classmates.

Starting a new school year can be tough — especially if your child with a disability is nervous to go back to school. Hopefully, these tips will make it a whole lot easier for your child with a disability to have a happy school year.

Getty image by Wavebreakmedia.

Originally published: August 27, 2022
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