Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Back to School Anxiety

Does your child struggle with school anxiety? I know I had one that did. It is not easy. Here are a few things I did with my son that lessened the back to school stress.

  1. We went to the school and walked around the empty hallways before school started. We found his room and stopped by and talked with the office personnel. This gave him an exposure without lots of people around. The social environment of school was his main source of stress.
  2. We made an appointment to go meet his teacher before "meet the teacher" time. He could have a few minutes of 1:1 time with the teacher. I could be there to help with the meeting and leaving at the end. Transitions were really hard in these new settings. We dropped off his supplies and skipped the meet the teacher time for the rest of the students. This lowered the anxiety: his and mine!
  3. We went over the school routine. I tried to think of everything I could about the first day/week of school. We talked about "what will you do if .......happens." This didn't solve every potential problem but it took care of some.
  4. I can remember going outside when the bus took its trial run through our neighbor hood a few days before school. We waved the bus driver on and it took care of one more first he would have. He knew who his busdriver would be without having the kids there.
  5. Lastly, we prepared by getting on a good bedtime and getting up schedule at home. It was important that these seemed normal as the school year began.

These are some of the things that worked for my son. It's a list to help you think through what might be some good ways to prepare for the first day of school. Please, let me know of other ways that help your child/ren.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Back to School Routines

This week, we are dropping our son off at college so I will be sharing our story in the coming weeks. Today, I will share a blog post that I wrote during back to school time a few years ago.

Good routines in the morning and evening can make a huge difference. I used to hear the word routines and think. "I HATE this. I am not a routine kind of mom" Well, that all changed when my third child needed predictable routines to calm his anxiety about school. I needed to find a way to have some organization that helped him (and my other children) while not stressing out my "go with the flow" personality. I want to emphasize that it has to work in your family culture or you won't stay with it.

You may ask? How do I know what will work for us? Well, only you can figure that out with a little trial and error. It will be easier to know what won't work. That will narrow your choices. Here are a few ways I put structure in our home.

I got up first and got ready. It was worth a little less sleep but I knew I would have a hot shower! When my children were younger, I would give them a 5 minute warning before they had to be out of bed. My son did evening showers so he could have a little more sleep in the morning. My husband usually had early morning meetings so he was gone before everyone was getting ready. I actually liked this because those meetings enabled him to be home in the evenings. I developed my own routines with the children in the mornings and it worked well.

I found my mornings went better if everything that could be done the night before was done. That meant clothes were laid out. Lunches were packed. Backpacks were packed and laid at the backdoor with coats. This included anything my children needed (picture money, signed permission slips etc,). They were completed and placed in the proper place before bed. Breakfast was packed in a ziplock bag and it could be eaten on the way to school in the morning.

This was a structure that worked for the unstructured girl that I am. I hope this gives you to find a morning and evening family's system that is sustainable over the school year.


Monday, August 15, 2016

Back to School: After the School Supplies are Purchased

I remember taking my children to Target or WalMart when the school supply list came in the mail. It was early August. I’m sure there’s some reading who are thinking: didn’t they just put in on-line. On no, this was back in the dark ages, the 1990’s. Supply lists were mailed to us. It was very exciting for my girls and we would make a big day of the shopping experience. School supplies, lunch boxes, backpacks and all the rest. There was always at least 1 item that we had to go to at least 3 stores before we found it. It was usually the red correcting pencils that were only at the office supply stores.

This shopping adventure was a big part of going back to school. Little did I know, there would be a day when my son was old enough to go to school that school supplies were the least of my worries. As a mom who dealt with a child with learning differences, the issues that I concentrated on were in a different category.

1. Does the teacher understand what my son needs to be successful?

2. Is the teacher a good fit for my son?

3. How will he connect to the teacher, her classroom and the new mix of peers in his class?

4. How do I manage my son’s anxiety for “meet the teacher” event and the first day of school?

5. Lastly, how do I keep my anxiety under control with all the stress of the beginning of the school year?

My heart is with all of you as your prepare for the school year. It’s hard physically to get everything done to start the year. It’s also hard emotionally to handle all the people, transitions and think of the advocating that needs to be done. Hang in there. I’ll be here every Monday talking about how to advocate for your child.


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Amusement Parks and Fairs

Summer for your children is quickly coming to an end. The tradition of starting school after Labor Day has gone by the wayside in most communities. There are only a few weeks to enjoy summer before the first day of school. If you haven't made a trip to an amusement park this summer, time is running out. Where I live, the state fair is the biggest event of the summer. It's only for a few days so the opportunity must seized quickly. These end of summer activities can be quite overwhelming for families with young children or those with learning differences. Here are a few tips to make these activities a little easier and hopefully increase the positive memories being made as a family.


  • Try to arrive before the park or fair opens so you are some of the people admitted to the park. You will be able to get to the most popular rides and attractions before most other people. Parking will be much closer to the gate.
  • Buy tickets before arriving. It will be one less thing to manage at the gates.
  • Tuesday's are often the day with the lightest attendance. Wednesday's and Thursday's are also known to have smaller crowds. Evenings have a special rate and are often nice because family's who came early are heading home. Sunday evenings have very light crowds at many of these parks and fairs.
  • Rainy and overcast days will have light attendance. Grab an umbrella and some rain gear and you will be set to enjoy with virtually no wait time for rides.
  • Check with the place you are going to see if they have any special accommodations for people with disabilities. Disney has passes so families who qualify can go to a special shorter line. Other parks may have instituted this so it doesn't hurt to inquire beforehand.

Enjoy this last bit of summer fun. With a little bit of pre-planning, this outing can be less stressful than by just "winging" it. I have found that things don't always go well with a plan, but I can assure you they will go better than if there is no plan! Have fun these last couple weeks of summer!!


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Organizing for Independence

I am be taking a break from the organizing for independence series. I will be sharing in the next few weeks about the organization I put together for my son as he goes away to college. These systems may be helpful for older children living at home or who go to an extended stay type camp or program for several weeks. The ideas could be implemented when grandparents or other people care for your children when you are away for a few days. I think these ideas would work well for anyone, including students without learning differences.

I found so many things online for how to pack for college. Most of them were "over the top" lists. The last thing my son needed was the ultimate college packing lists. I was overwhelmed by these so I knew he would not be able handle all of that stuff. I started looking at guys packing lists. Finally, I looked at some blog posts for the minimalist college student. I synthesized and individualized the information to my son. After a little work, I came up with a packing list that I thought was right for him. It has changed a little over the last couple of months. I started in May researching and purchasing items on the list. Starting a few months early has really helped me immensely. One thing, I have learned in the special needs journey is that having margins helps keep me from melting down. Our child isn't the only one who melts down, right?

Next week I'll start sharing the organization I've done for my son's dorm room. I'd love to have you join me!


Monday, August 8, 2016

And Let the Meetings Begin!

As a parent, back to school time was a bag full of mixed emotions. I was a stay at home mom for 21 years so I had lots of seasons I went through during back to school time. Sometimes, it was about buying school supplies and all the excitement for a new beginning. There was a parent only night where I picked up a packet which had the class list for each of my children. There was other information about the school year, but for our family the class list told who the teacher was and who my child's classmates were. These sheets of paper were the "creme de la creme" for us!! I'm sure this is done online these days. Then it was time for back to school night to meet the teacher. All done, right? That worked until my son started school. We were in need of a new routine!

Here are a few ways that have helped my son and others I know with learning differences.

  1. Schedule a meeting with the main school personnel (classroom and special education, teachers, speech pathologist, school counselor) before school begins. It is important to explain his needs but it is equally vital to begin developing a good relationship with these people. They are your lifeline to a successful year. A strong relationship and a good first impression will go a long way.
  2. If possible, schedule a time for your child to meet his classroom or home room teacher before school begins. I think it will be an asset to your child and teacher(s) to have a first meeting when the situation is very calm.
  3. As you have these meetings, it maybe decided that a follow up meeting would be helpful. Try to get a meeting scheduled for mid to late September. It will be easier to schedule this meeting now when life is calmer without children in the building everyday. If you wait until school starts to schedule it, it may be harder to get everyone to a meeting until later in the semester. It is important to nail down a time now. You'll be glad you did.

It's time to email or call the school to schedule these times. You may have to "press" a little to pull together the school staff meeting. I have found that if families have this "before school starts" gathering, there's a much better experience during the school year. I'd love to hear how these ideas work for you.



Thursday, August 4, 2016

Family Reunion

This post is a follow up to last week's post on Gramma/Grandpa Camp. As great as this experience or anytime your children stay with others while you are away, there is a season of re-entry. It is often, kind of rough. It may seem like the child/children should be glad to see you and be back in their own home. Shouldn't it be a great reunion? That sounds great but it's rarely that way! Let's look at the why!

  • There may of not been a consistent schedule. This includes meals, bedtimes and routines.
  • Life was all about their comfort and enjoyment. That's what these weeks are all about. It is often a vacation from structure and the rules that govern your home.
  • There was likely a few more sweets and junk food then you allow.
  • Your child/children may of had a few more excesses than happen in your home. They may of negotiated and got their way a few more times than happens with you.
  • Life was about the children being the center of attention. People let them have more iPad time than you do. They took your kids to special events and bought them gifts throughout the week.

You may be thinking, this explains why the children's behavior is terrible. There are arguments, meltdowns and protests like, "I want to go live with gramma and grandpa. They're nicer than you!" This is hard for any mom. Was it worth it when this the re-entry? Yes, it was a break for everyone and a lot of fun for all. But how do you regain control in your home.


  • Realize that it may be a couple of intense days. There will be fighting, fussing and some defiance.
  • It is important to hold the line. Remind the children what your rules are and they have always been. A visual schedule and expectations might come in handy for a few days.
  • Remember, that the child/ren may be behind on sleep and good nap and early bed time may be the best thing you could do for them.
  • Remind the children who the adult is and that the adult makes the rules for children. It is always important for a child to be clear on her role and on the adult's role.

The important thing to be aware that it will take consistency to a schedule and the house rules. Communicate all of these things kindly but firmly and expect compliance. The better your follow through, the quicker things get back to normal in your home. Remember, this will pass too!