Back to School: What to do when the Going Gets Tough

We are going on week two for school, really only day three come Monday and teachers have to hit the ground running teaching students how to follow rules, procedures and schedules then add the curriculum content and all the mandatory pre-testing, benchmark testing and assessing required.  I teach high school and am completely outnumbered and overloaded but I also have two little children that are off to school.  My oldest son is my special needs child (autism) and my daughter is typical developing.  Like many parents with multiple children, each child has various needs and distinct personalities.   So, my daughter reacts and transitions to school very differently than my son has in the past.  That leads me to some tips on what to do as a parent of a special needs child during the first weeks of school to help get through the tough times.back to school

The honeymoon is going to wear off this week.  This first few days the teacher is like…”I just LOVE your child!”  Then the expectations change of the teacher and now that we all know each others names, we have learning and school to do.  Also, regularly kids are often more emotional the first few days to first week and then the behavior settles for routine to set in.  However, you know that many times the special needs kids are overstimulated and scared.  My son will be very quiet and will just watch; then the behavior comes out because he has already determined what the teacher will tolerate on the first few days.

  1. Teacher verbally complaining about not doing… and complaining like well, he jumped on the table, refused to sit at circle and __________AGAIN today.     I don’t know about anyone else but by the third day of this complaining, he’s not listening and etc…, I’m over it!  Like DUH to the teacher, what the hell do you think my home life is like?  And why do you think he’s in a blended class with an IEP?   So, not to be a total bitch but I start referencing strategies from his IEP or behavior plan.  I will also say things like I understand ;however, have you talked to Ms. D, his teacher from last year?  Maybe she can give you some personal examples of how she was able to manage that behavior or I can come observe his behavior and give you some other suggestions.   I would also recommend that you write in a journal or in your phone each day at pick up what the teacher complained about; if you want to get super badass mom on them then you go home or sit in your car and write in an email a summary (to the teacher) of what the teacher had a complaint about that day.   Just write that you just wanted to clarify that her concerns were ______,_______ and ______ so that you can address that with his private team of therapists too.
  2. The planner.   Thank god for this!  The teacher actually writes her/his complaints in writing!  You’re so thankful….yes, you really are.   Now, you have a written record of what the problems are that can then later be addressed at an official meeting.  Use the teacher complaints to get your child more services and accommodations in their IEP.   Use the complaints to get a behavior plan added.  Then the school staff will be forced to collect data on how often the child is actually doing or having a particular behavior.
  3. The behavior chart.  Next, post is all about how much I hate behavior charts.  My son’s favorite color is red; on most class behavior charts red is bad.  So, the students earn green, yellow or red.  My son never came home red but he wouldn’t have cared if he did.  I always said when he had yellow, “well, looks like the teacher was tired today”.    My suggestion is to tell the teacher that you don’t believe in class behavior charts and that your child should have an individual behavior chart where s/he earns stamps or stickers when they achieve the required activity per each day.  Then, we have a behavior plan in place to eliminate the negative behavior.
  4. IEP meetings/conferences.  Do not be afraid of these!  You should actually initiate a conference within the first two weeks.  You want to tell the teacher or case manager that you need a conference because your child is having difficulty adjusting to the new year and teacher.  You then bring up the teacher’s complaints.  You can always ask for draft IEP if the team is recommending any changes.   If you are concerned about behavior tell the teacher you want to discuss a behavior plan and would like some baseline data at the meeting.
  5. Ask to observe your child during the most difficult part of his/her day.  Ask for the IEP conference and then email the principal for a date and time to observe your child.  Let the teacher know that you want to see what’s going on and ask what time is best.  Then the principal will also talk to the teacher.  The principal will most likely email you a date and time to come.  While there take tally mark notes on the number of times you see the behavior and the number of times the teacher has to redirect.  This information will help you at the conference.  Also see if you can observe from the window  or doorway of the classroom so that possibly for 5-10 minutes your child doesn’t know you are there.  You probably only need to observe for 20 minutes.


Other blog topics to check out related to this:

How to mentally prepare for an IEP meeting.

Holy behavior plan, Batman! 

Does the teacher complain about…

How schools fail special needs children


Comment or contact us with your questions.  Let’s have the best school year possible!

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