Back-to-school time snuck up on me this year. When did the beginning of summer turn into its final days? For once, I'm not fully prepared for the start of the new school year. Indigo starts high school in a few weeks, and we still have shopping to do and schedules to iron out. It will all work itself out. I know this because Indigo is still at the private school for children with learning disabilities and he feels safe there. I'm thankful for that (Insert sigh of relief here).
When Indigo was little, I had mixed emotions about this time of year. By summer's end, leisure time had become exhausting. Finding activities to keep a boy with an overabundance of energy took a lot of work. I looked forward to the school year because Indigo does best with a regimented routine. I also dreaded it because I never knew how Indigo's new teacher would welcome him or how the classroom dynamics would affect him. I feared the potential problems that could arise.
After a disastrous kindergarten, I discovered that Indigo's summer-to-school transition could be smooth if I planned adequately. Indigo felt more secure about new situations when he knew what to expect so I did my best to prepare him.
A few weeks before school began, I struck up conversations about it: the date school started, the topics Indigo would learn and his hopes and anxieties. I created a positive attitude by saying phrases like "Aren't you excited you're a third grader now?" and "I bet you'll make lots of friends in your new classroom." I kept school in the forefront with a verbal countdown: "Only eight more days till school."
Although I've always minimized junk foods like soda and sugary snacks, I allow a few goodies during summer like popsicles and ice cream. To get Indigo back on track, I promoted healthy eating by involving him with food shopping for school lunches and snack time. I let him pick fun-packaged snacks that were still healthy like pretzel sticks and peanut butter, cheese slices and crackers, individually packaged applesauce or fruit cups (only sweetened by fruit juice) and 100% juice boxes. A brand new lunchbox that donned his favorite action figures made healthy food even more adventurous.
I reacquainted Indigo with his school by driving the route from our house to the school multiple times so he could see the proximity of its location to where we lived. I explained that his bus might take him a different route because it picked up other kids.
A day or two before classes started, I took him into his new classroom and introduced him to his new teacher. I utilized our time to explain how Indigo learned and what strategies the teacher could implement to help him succeed. This especially helped before he was diagnosed.
I no longer have to plan as extensively as I did when he was younger because Indigo has learned what to expect and feels safe at school. He knows all the staff and the majority of the students. Still, at the start of August, I began conversations about what high school would entail — the added responsibilities, after school activities and learning areas Indigo could improve on.
Indigo has begun thinking about his future, which colleges are more accommodating to students with learning disabilities, what steps he needs to take to succeed in high school, in college, and in life and the strategies that will teach him how to work independently and achieve his goals. Although it's taken years to get here, my summer-to school transition planning brought us to this comfort zone.
For more information about how to help your child with special needs transition back to school, read my article: How to Lessen Your Child's Back-to-School Anxiety. These strategies really helped lessen Indigo's anxieties when he was younger.
© Sera Rivers