With the start of the new school year and the approaching chagim, September is an exciting time. However, for parents—and particularly for parents of a child with special needs—it can also be uniquely challenging and daunting.
Your children, whether they are starting at a new school or are returning students, have a lot to balance during this time of year. They are acclimating to their school routine—a different schedule, more structure and increased expectations. Additionally, you are dealing with the extra demands of preparing for the chagim. It may seem that just as you have begun to settle into a semblance of order and routine, everything is disrupted by the erratic schedule that the chagim bring. If your child has been having a hard time adjusting to school, any progress that he or she has made may slip away. It can also be particularly challenging to balance the needs of your child with those of the rest of your family. While September holds the promise of a new year, it can also be a stressful time. Here are some things you can do to help alleviate the strain:
Let your child know ahead of time what to expect both during the chagim and on school days. Transitions can be very difficult for children, especially those with special needs. Having some sense of control by knowing what’s coming next can be quite helpful.
During the chagim, try to keep your child’s sleep and eating schedules from going too far awry. Keep in mind, however, that some of the disruption is going to happen regardless of your best intentions. Remember that any setbacks are not going to be permanent.
Validate any anxiety your child may have about going back to school. Whether they are letting you know verbally or through their behaviors, you can support them and ease their stress by letting them know that you understand. Reassure them that even though going to school may be difficult right now, it will be okay soon and eventually they probably will even love it!
Communicate with your child’s teachers and let them know about any particular difficulties your child is experiencing. The more they know about how your child is doing at home the better they can partner with you to provide support and comfort.
Every child and family is unique. This time of year is full of changes and new beginnings, which can be exciting to some and stressful for others. By keeping in mind some of the tips described above, you can help make this period of time easier for your child. However, if they are having particular difficulty transitioning back to school, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your school’s social worker or psychologist for additional support.
Wishing you a Shana Tova!
Debra Kammerman is the school social worker at SINAI at Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey, including the Riva Blatt Weinstein Judaic Studies Program. SINAI operates several inclusive special education schools throughout northern New Jersey for Jewish children grades 1-12, as well as programs for adults with developmental disabilities. For additional interesting articles on special education, visit the SINAI blog at www.sinaischools.org/blog.
This article was originally published in the Jewish link, read the the article here.