Preparing for the New School Year
The 2012- 2013 school year is just around the corner and it’s time for all of us to get back in the “school mindset” and begin preparing for the fall. As you prepare for your child’s first day of school, one of the most important things that you can do for your child and your child’s teacher is write your teacher a letter about your child. The purpose of you writing your teacher a letter is not only to let him/her know about your child, but to also begin to build a positive open relationship with them. As many of you know the more positive and open your relationship is with your teacher the better! Here are a few things that you may want to include in your letter:
-Always start off positive. Let her/him know how excited you are that your child is in their class.
-Then provide a few “fun facts” about your child such as: things that your child loves (their favorite toy, favorite TV show, favorite cartoon character) as well as some fun things he/she did over the break (any social camps/groups, overnight camps, family vacation, etc.).
-Next, provide a few things that may be difficult for your child along with different ways that they can help your child. **The key is for these to be easily used in the classroom.** **In addition, if there are any helpful tools you can provide for the teacher, even better.**
Here are a few areas to think about:
-Transitions: If your child struggles with transitions, think about what helps them the most and let your teacher know: visual schedule that stays in one place, a visual schedule that is on their desk, a visual schedule that they can carry with them, a transition object, etc.
-Emotional Regulation Needs: First let your teacher know your child’s overall emotional regulation needs such as: “She experiences very high arousal in the morning and then stable or “medium” arousal throughout the rest of her day. Placing sensory activities/breaks between her work in the morning like swinging, jumping, therapy putty really help her.”; “He is always really happy in the mornings but becomes a little “grumpy” in the afternoon. So he does best if he can do his more difficult work in the mornings and his easier work in the afternoon….” Let them know of any other emotional regulation needs such as: “He becomes upset when he doesn’t get his way. He will scream or hit the teacher. Last year his teacher worked on modeling his emotion vocabulary of “mad” and having him take a “break.” This worked great during the school year as well as over the summer.”; “When she is really excited she will jump and up down. We have worked on using her words to discuss her feelings. She is making great progress with this.”
-Social Communication: Let your teacher know where your child’s strengths are and what areas they are working on. Such as: “He has great conversations with his friends when they are talking about his favorite things like Star Wars and Sponge Bob. He is working on talking about what his friends like too.”; “He is doing a great job requesting his needs using one to two words without cues but if you use a visual cue he will use three to six words to request.”; “She is doing a great job initiating conversation with her peers using jokes. Last year her teacher used a “Joke Bag” and would pull out a joke each day for the kids to tell each other. This activity motivated all the children to tell jokes to each other and then it led to even more conversation. She really excelled at this. I have made you a “Joke Bag” for you to use if you would like. I will place it in her backpack the first day of school for you to keep and use if you would like.”; “He loves to talk to adults and is still working on talking with his friends. If he tells you something/shows you something, you can redirect him to a friend by saying ‘tell a friend’ or ‘I bet Laura would like to see that.’”; etc.
-Social Skills/Play Skills: Let your teacher know about your child’s social and play skills by providing them with ideas to help such as: “She loves recess but she typically will only play on the swings. Last year we worked on her playing on the swings for up to 10 minutes and then she had to find a friend to play with. She did great with this.”; “Whenever he is outside he will walk the perimeter of the playground rather than play with his friends. Last year we worked on making a list of things he could do such as 1. Walk for five laps; 2. Ask a friend to play; 3. Join in on a game with a friend; etc. He did great with this.”
-Attentional Needs: If your child struggles with their attention, let your teacher know where they struggle the most/least as well as a few things that may help them. Think about simple things that they can do in the classroom such as: “She attends the best when she sits in the first two rows in the middle of the classroom.”; “If she has her pencil in her hand when work is being passed out, then she will begin her work without listening; however, if she has a place to keep her pencil (last year we used a pencil cup for her desk – I will have this in her backpack if you would like it) then she would wait and listen to the directions before starting.”; etc.
-Lastly end with providing your contact information as well as others’ that you feel may be helpful such as: “This year she will continue to do OT one time a week with (Amy Ornelas at D.O.T.’s for Kids – here is her information if you would like to talk to her) and she will continue with speech two times a week (with Amanda Rollins at KidSpeak, LLC – here is her information if you would like to talk to her). If you need anything at all please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you for your time.”
When writing your letter, try to aim for one to two pages max. You don’t want to overwhelm your teacher or provide her/him with too much information. Remember that at the beginning of the school year, less is more. Provide him/her with the most important information along with a few tips. Remember if you have already had your ARD meeting or teacher/parent meeting before you send this letter, then try not to repeat yourself.
Also if your child can, allow them to be a part of this letter. Allow them to brainstorm what they want their teacher to know about him/her.
We also wanted to share links to our previous school-inspired blogs to help your family prepare your child for their new school, new classroom, new teacher or new friends. We wish everyone the best of luck and loads of fun for the 2012-2013 school year!
Open Communication: http://www.autismspot.com/blog/Open-Communication
What Do I Tell the Other Parents?: www.autismspot.com/blog/What-Do-I-Tell-Other-Parents
The School Year is Approaching: www.autismspot.com/blog/School-Year-Approaching
5 Ways to Help Your Child be Social at School: www.autismspot.com/blog/5-Ways-Help-Your-Child-Be-Social-School
How Can I Get My Child to Talk to Their Friends?: www.autismspot.com/blog/How-can-I-get-my-child-talk-their-friends