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Top Ten Back-to-School Dos and Don’ts for Parents of Students with Special Needs

Reposted from The Friendship Circle Blog:

Back to SchoolRecently I was at the middle school transition day, where my son received his new schedule and school photo i.d. card.  I couldn’t help noticing that the parents seemed to be more anxious than the students.

That got me thinking about the time I showed up unannounced while my son’s 3rd grade teacher was setting up the classroom and the time I became angry during 6th grade schedule pick-up and the time I rolled down my window in the parking lot to tell another parent that he was driving the wrong way in a one-way lane.  So I reminded myself that there are certain dos and don’ts to follow during back-to-school season for parents of children with special needs…and every one of these lessons is based on a real-life situation, but names have been withheld to protect the guilty.

1. Anonymous

Don’t assume that you are anonymous, no matter how crowded the school is at the open house.
Do assume that the office staff and the ladies at the PTA table recognized both you and your student when you tried to cut in line.

2. Make yourself Known

Don’t assume that everyone memorized every detail from your student’s thick file.
Do warmly introduce yourself and your student to the staff, and let them know you are available to discuss your student’s needs.

3. Be Informative

Don’t be secretive about life-threatening medical conditions or a diagnosis that affects classroom behavior.
Do drop off your emergency medical plan about a week before school starts – we dropped off ours on Wednesday.

4. Purportion

Don’t demand a new IEP just because your student’s schedule has some mistakes.
Do let the team know that there’s a problem, then sit back and enjoy a cup of tea.

5. The Right Words

Don’t ask the music teacher if she’s pregnant again.
Do plan out in advance the polite topics of small talk that you are capable of covering.

6. Be Presentable

Don’t show up to school wearing wildly inappropriate clothing.
Do keep one clean, presentable outfit in your closet for school drop-off and pick-up.

7. Schedules, Schedules, Schedules

Don’t wait until the last minute to ask about bus schedules, and lash out at the transportation director.
Do call transportation a few days before school starts and calmly explain why you need the schedule.

8. Call Ahead

Don’t show up unexpectedly at school during a teacher in service when the building is officially closed.
Do schedule a time with the office staff or IEP team to visit the school before school starts, and take lots of photos.

9. Who Started it?

Don’t start a fight in the parking lot.
Do drive defensively and keep your windows rolled up.

10. DIY

Don’t brush, wipe, organize, pack and carry everything for your student, and then shower him or her with affection in front of the whole school.
Do teach the morning routine weeks before school starts, and let your student practice packing a lunch and carrying a loaded backpack.  Life skills start at home!


Written on 2014/09/02 by:


Karen Wang is a Friendship Circle parent. You may have seen her sneaking into the volunteer lounge for ice cream or being pushed into the cheese pit by laughing children. She is a contributing author to the anthology “My Baby Rides the Short Bus: The Unabashedly Human Experience of Raising Kids With Disabilities”