Perhaps you’re familiar with these common symptoms of Back-to-School-itis: rolling eyes, groans, moans, an inability to wake up in the morning — it affects children of all ages! But before you diagnose your child with this seasonal malady, take a moment to reflect on what getting “back into the swing of things” might mean for a student who struggles to learn. Many children dread going back to school for any number of reasons — but for those with learning disabilities (LD), this transition can be particularly daunting.
For those with an LD — such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, or dysgraphia — going back to school might be a return to the constant reminder that they are “different” from their peers. When school starts, not only must children with LD switch their brains from “relax mode” to “learn mode,” they must meet the challenge of gradually more complicated assignments, getting comfortable with new teachers and classroom environments, and they have to again work harder to complete tasks that their classmates appear to do with ease.
Here are a few ways you can make the transition back to school more manageable and enjoyable for your child.
- Reestablish bedtime routines a few weeks before school starts. Many families allow their children to stay up later and wake up according to their bodies’ natural sleep/wake cycle during the summer. Suddenly waking up three hours earlier than his or her body is used to can be quite the jolt for anyone!
For students in elementary school: To ease this transition, start moving up bedtime in five- to ten-minute increments and wake your child up five- to ten- minutes earlier each day. This subtle time adjustment may decrease your child's resistance to the new sleep/wake schedule. Keep doing this daily until you return to the bedtime regimen that works best for your child during the school year.
For students in middle school or high school: Allow them to change their own schedules as they see fit, reminding them of how hard it will be to wake up on their first day if they don’t adjust to the new schedule gradually.
- Work with your child to prepare a homework schedule and location in advance. Not only will this ease the tension accompanying those first homework assignments on new, “scary” material, but it can also help with the development of organizational skills and good study habits.
- With your child, collect and organize the necessary supplies to complete schoolwork, such as paper, markers, paper clips, a stapler, a dictionary, pens and pencils. Plastic sweater bins or small baskets are excellent for keeping materials organized and accessible. Let your child decorate the bin with markers and other materials to allow his or her individuality to shine!
For older children, work together using back-to-school catalogues to set up a budget for school supplies. Then, give your child the amount of money that you decide upon and let him or her do the shopping, keeping in mind the budget and adjustments they may have to make when shopping.
- Review basic academic material to get your child refocused on learning. If you haven’t been doing so already, take some time to do some fun, educational activities that help your child practice math, science, history, and social studies.
Keep activities short and motivating to prevent stress. Reviewing familiar concepts is a good way to start. Often you can find skill review workbooks for all ages at your local bookstore.
- Build excitement aboutthe first week of school! Emphasize the positive -- spend time together organizing school clothes and planning special meals or activities for the first days of school.
Make “welcome back to school" cards for your child’s teachers and friends! Or, for your high school-aged student, practice writing a letter to your child’s teacher explaining his or her accommodations and limitations. This will not only help establish a relationship, but will be helpful for helping your child prepare for college, when he or she must make these connections on his own.
- Read books together about going back to school. The following suggestions might be helpful with back-to-school transition.
For children pre-k through kindergarten:
For children in elementary school:
- Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
- Judy Moody: Was In a Mood. Not a Good Mood. A Bad Mood by Megan McDonald
- How to Be Cool in the Third Grade by Betsy Duffey
- The Teacher from the Black Lagoon by Mike Thaler
For those entering or continuing through middle school:
- Middle School: The Real Deal: From Cafeteria Food to Combination Locks by Juliana Farrell and Beth Mayall
- A Smart Girl's Guide to Starting Middle School: Everything You Need to Know About Juggling More Homework, More Teachers, and More Friends by Julie Williams
- Help! I'm in Middle School... How Will I Survive? by Merry L. Gumm
- Middle School: How to Deal by Nuts and Bolts Girls and Yuki Hatori
For those transitioning to high school:
- Ultimate High School Survival Guide (Peterson's Ultimate Guides) by Peterson's
- 101 Ways to Adjust to High School by Randy Howe
- High School Bound: The Ultimate Guide for High School Success and Survival by Martin J. Spethman and Chuck Klein