The thought of heading back to school can bring on a lot of emotions for children and parents alike.
For some, the transition from summer to school with a new schedule, friends and teacher is exciting. For others, the thought of so much change at once can be anxiety provoking — especially for kids with special needs.
To help you relieve some of those back-to-school jitters, Amanda Moore — CEO of the Angelman Syndrome Foundation — offers tips that she implements with her twin sons, Baden and Jackson. Two years ago, Jackson was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome, a rare neurological disorder with symptoms such as seizures, severe developmental delays and sleep issues.
How do you help make the back-to-school transition a smooth one?
Both of my children are creatures of habit, especially Jackson. We try to maintain a schedule throughout the summer that somewhat mirrors the school year. It may be simple things like waking up, getting dressed, brushing teeth and eating breakfast. If we start the day like every other, it saves us frustration on his part.
Is the transition difficult for your children?
With Angelman Syndrome, you tend to get very overwhelmed with change and new surroundings. We talk to the boys about what to expect and try to get them excited. We remind them of their friends they will get to see again, and the activities they loved last year. We also allow Jackson to be Jackson. If he has a meltdown, we work hard not to let it rattle us. We do our best to take inventory of why it may have happened, and work to not do it again. For example, we realized if Jackson doesn’t get a bath every night, his evening is off and then his morning is a disaster. The solution? Nightly baths.
How do you relieve back-to-school jitters?
School never really ends in the Moore household. We work hard to implement the same schedules and educational activities into our days. We also know that the first week will be challenging and that no matter how much we prepare Jackson for a change in schedule, he still struggles. We have learned not to jump to a “this is the end of the world” conclusion. Every child has different struggles, no matter if they have special needs or not. Both of our kids experience the jitters. We make sure they know this is OK and try to be there to support them and work through it.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
One thing I pray for every day is that parents are teaching their kids the importance of being kind. As a parent to a child with special needs, my greatest fear is that another kid will not be kind to Jackson because he can’t communicate, or because when he gets excited he flaps, and it comes across as hitting. As we prepare our kids for school, the best lesson we can teach them is to be kind to anyone they encounter. This will help them to be successful not only in school, but in life.