7 Logistical Tips for Parents and Caregivers to Start the School Year
At a Glance
Preparation is Key: Establish routines ahead of the school year, involve your child in the school supplies shopping process, and get to know your child's teacher.
Familiarity Reduces Anxiety: Consider visiting the school with your child beforehand (or ways to learn more about the school online) to familiarize them with the environment and discuss transportation routines to ensure safety and ease.
Beyond the Classroom: Plan for after-school activities, ensuring any necessary accommodations are in place, and always prioritize safety measures in every situation.
The beginning of each new school year entails a major transition, both from the schedule of summer and the norms and routines of last year’s classroom. Preparing for the change can be a major undertaking, and sometimes it feels like there’s always another box to check!
Crucially it’s important to feel like we have all the things we need to get the school year started, are on the same page as the person we are supporting on what to do in various situations, and to make sure everyone feels ready for the new routines and unexpected challenges of the first week back.
In this post we wanted to share a few logistical steps worth having on your list to feel as prepared as possible to take all the little steps that Back to School entails.
1. Establish a Routine Ahead of Time
One of the hardest parts of a new school year is going from a fairly relaxed summer schedule to a fairly regimented schedule where there are potential consequences for running late!
Even if the student you are supporting has a pretty rigid summer schedule, changing a well-established routine can require a degree of adjustment.
One thing that can make life easier is starting to implement some of those schedule changes a couple of weeks ahead of time so it doesn’t feel like an enormous adjustment all at once. It’s also a great low pressure environment to evaluate whether a particular schedule plan is working for everyone or needs to be adjusted.
If you like to or have considered using scheduling tools with the student you are supporting, this is also a great time to incorporate those and see what works and doesn’t work.
The goal isn’t to get everything right the first time, but to ease back into the change in routine that the start of school mandates and avoid feeling stuck or overwhelmed.
2. School Supplies and Essentials
Getting school supplies is an essential step of any school year, and there are some items that are simply essential to check off and make sure you have ahead of time. However, there are also lots of supplies that represent some flexibility of choice both in terms of style and which things the person you are supporting will find most helpful to use with their day to day school activities.
One great way to engage the student you are supporting with the start of the school year is to make the list together and involve them in shopping. If your child previously has not gotten involved in school supply shopping or isn’t fully familiar with the process, this visual support can be a helpful tool for adding some context and a list of suggestions.
3. Meet With the Teachers
At the start of the school year it is natural to want to get to know your child’s teacher, develop an understanding of their style, and to begin to think about ways to coordinate support. While some schools set times for parents to meet teachers before the start of the year for this purpose, it can be worth seeking out a meeting time even if there is not an officially scheduled event.
One other crucial element you can bring to such a meeting is better context for understanding your child’s needs and preferences. While a teacher may have some resources like a student file or IEP goals to work off, no set of notes from last year’s teacher will replace the insight of a parent or caregiver who has a close bond with the student in question.
One great way to introduce some of that information is with a quick writeup and summary. If that sounds like a great idea but you’re not sure where to get started, check out our one-page handout and brochure versions of an All About Me info sheet.
4.Visit the School
While visiting the school might feel like it goes part and parcel with meeting the teacher, there’s a strong case to be made that this should be a separate trip that happens with the student you are supporting!
An early visit to the school can help you and your child develop a sense of the campus, see where your classroom is located, and explore the environment to reduce anxiety around too many new things on day 1.
Crucially this step can also be quite helpful with establishing routines around transportation when arriving at school in the morning on heading home in the afternoon. You can plan out the route from the drop-off area to the classroom and from the classroom to the pick-up area, all without the pressure of lots of students milling around.
If visiting campus is not practical, other tools like pictures or even Google Maps or Streetview can be a helpful if imperfect replacement.
5. Review Safety Measures
While we cannot predict every single thing that could possibly happen while getting to school, going home, or during the day, one incredibly important part of any routine is establishing what to do in common situations where safety becomes a primary concern.
For example, if your child needs to use a crosswalk at any point while getting to or returning from school that is a great opportunity to practice crosswalk procedure both with and without a crossing guard.
General protocols and rules like avoiding talking to strangers - and crucially explaining why we take these safety precautions - are also great to bring up in this time, and you could even consider putting some of these rules and procedures in a notebook or binder to be referenced when needed.
Binders and notebooks are also great for including important contact information to reach you or other members of the support network in an emergency, as well as some basic examples of who to call in what situation.
6. Discuss Transportation Routines
Hand in hand with safety measures is establishing the transportation routine that your child will use to get to and from school every day. Whereas routines happening in the classroom or at home may feel a little safer because your child has immediate access to you or their teacher if they need help, feeling stuck in the place between home and school can be a much greater challenge.
That is why going over the routine when it comes to transportation - as well as what to do if the routine is unexpectedly broken - can be a such a valuable step that avoids considerable stress and heartache.
7. Arrange After-School Activities
After-school activities can be a bit of a mixed bag to start the school year. Depending on your school you may not have the chance to sign up for activities until the school year gets more under way or your child may be expected to know what they want to do going in.
The crucial thing in this context is to get an idea of what may interest your child and to get a strong sense of the expectations around signing up and being prepared for such activities so that they do not get caught unprepared when those activities start ramping up. This holds doubly true if your child may need an accommodation to be able to participate in a particular activity - it’s important to give the school every opportunity to have that accommodation ready on time so that everyone is ready to go!
Checking in with the school ahead of time is a great way to get an advanced idea of what may be out there and to be ready for it and as a bonus gives you the opportunity to go over some of these activities with the student you are supporting to see what generates the most excitement and what you may need moving forward.
The start of school is always full of special preparation and will always have its share of surprises no matter how much you do in advance. But taking that extra time to try to be as prepared as possible can both be reassuring that the year’s routines will get off to a good start and enriching from the standpoint of including your child in as much of the discussion about their own school year as they are willing and able to participate in.
We hope these logistical tips have been a helpful springboard and we will be back next week with some more tips on helping your child feel secure and supported while navigating the new school year.
In the meantime if you have any suggestions or want to share your own experience, drop us a line at email@example.com.