Back to School: 5 Considerations for Your Special Needs Child

Help Your Child Overcome Potential Obstacles by Planning Ahead

Back-to-school season is in full swing which means new school supplies, fresh backpacks, and snazzy first-day outfits. This is an exciting time for parents and children alike, but it can often be anxiety-filled for students with special needs. Adjusting to a new routine and making friends are just a couple of the obstacles your child might face. The good news is there are steps you can take to help your child feel supported and prepared for the new school year. If you are a parent or guardian of a child with special needs, consider these 5 tips to help alleviate back-to-school jitters.

1. Review or Set Up Your Child’s IEP

An Individualized Education Program, or IEP, is a written plan that outlines the special education support and services a child requires to do well in school. IEPs are offered to eligible children who attend public pre K-12 schools.

One of the best steps we believe you can take to support your child is to thoroughly review their IEP prior to the start of the school year. Understand when the IEP expires, if a reevaluation is required, and whether the instructions still meet your child’s needs. If you need to make changes, be sure to contact your child’s school for an IEP review meeting.

If you do not already have an IEP in place, consider reaching out to your school to set up an eligibility meeting for your child. For Florida residents, you can learn more about Florida IEP resources and requirements here.

2. Talk About & Practice the New Routine

Going back to school or starting a new school can be a challenging transition for many children with special needs. To help alleviate the anxiety, try talking to your child about how they feel, and practice routine changes a coupl ofe weeks in advance.

For instance, if going back to school requires waking up an hour or two earlier than summer, start changing your child’s wake up time in small increments, rather than all at once. The more you can accommodate your child’s unique needs ahead of time, the smoother the transition will hopefully be. You can also practice driving to and from the school so your child can feel comfortable with the length of the car ride and what to expect along the way.

You might also find that simply letting your child vent about their fear can help them move past it. Additionally, trying to keep your tone and language positive when talking about school can help create a sense of excitement about the new year.

3. Stay Organized

Being a parent or guardian of any child requires a lot of organization. But for those who are taking care of a child with special needs, the amount of coordination can increase exponentially. Between after-school activities, doctor’s appointments, special education meetings, and social events, it can be a lot to keep track of! That’s why staying organized is a crucial part of supporting your child both before school begins and throughout the year.

Consider creating a family calendar to keep track of all the ongoing appointments, meetings, and events. An online calendar that can be sync’d across devices and shared with close friends and family is ideal, that way everyone is kept informed. You can take this one step further by including a communication log to take notes on all of the important emails and calls received. Utilizing a binder or filing system to store hard copies of all of your child’s paperwork and documents is another effective strategy for staying organized.

4. Help Your Child Advocate for Themselves

As a parent, it’s natural for you to want to protect your child from all the hurtful and scary things they may encounter in the world. This is especially true for children with special needs who may have trouble understanding social cues or sticking up for themselves. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to be by your child’s side 24 hours a day, especially if they are attending public school with other children.

In this case, we believe it’s important to help your children advocate for themselves. This may look like practicing social skills, working with a therapist, or reminding your child to ask for help when they need it. Be sure to foster open and honest communication with your child. If they don’t feel comfortable speaking up in class, let them know that you are always there to advocate on their behalf.

Teachers are also a great resource in this area. Consider reaching out to your child’s teacher directly to establish a line of communication. They may have a classroom of 20 plus kids to look after, but it’s their job to work with you and your child to foster a safe and effective learning environment.

5. Get Familiar with the Classroom Before the First Day

Another great way to reduce first-day jitters is to get familiar with the classroom before the first day of school. Since most schools don’t offer back-to-school nights until after the year begins, you may have to reach out to the teacher or school administration to schedule a time for your child to visit.

Understanding where they will spend their time and which areas of the school they will interact with (i.e., playground, cafeteria, gym, etc.) can be an effective way to help your child adjust. This can also be a good time to practice walking from classroom to classroom or opening their locker if your child is in a grade that has multiple classes. A trial run before the first day can go a long way in helping your child feel safe, comfortable, and excited to go back to school.

Learn More

At Aviance Capital Partners, we provide comprehensive financial planning and wealth management services for special needs families. If you would like to learn more about our firm, please give us a call today!

Disclosures: Aviance Capital Partners, LLC (“ACP”) is an SEC registered investment adviser located in Naples, Florida. Registration as an investment adviser is not an endorsement by securities regulators and does not imply that ACP has attained a certain level of skill, training, or ability. While information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date, ACP does not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of ACP as of the date of publication and are subject to change. Not all services will be appropriate or necessary for all clients, and the potential value and benefit of the ACP’s services will vary based upon the client’s individual investment, financial, and tax circumstances. The effectiveness and potential success of a tax strategy, investment strategy, and financial plan depends on a variety of factors, including but not limited to the manner and timing of implementation, coordination with the client and the client’s other engaged professionals, and market conditions. ACP suggests that readers consult a financial professional, attorney or tax advisory professional about their specific financial, legal or tax situation. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Additional information about ACP, including its Form ADV Part 2A describing its services, fees, and applicable conflicts of interest and its Form CRS is available upon request and at For current ACP clients, please advise us promptly in writing, if there are ever any changes in your financial situation or investment objectives, if you wish to impose any reasonable restrictions to our management of your account, or if you have not been receiving at least quarterly account statements from your account custodian.

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