It’s that time of the year – back to school time! Most kids around the country will have returned to school this past Tuesday, September 4th, if they have not already. This can be an exciting yet stressful time for parents and kids alike. While kids may be worried about facing the academic rigors of the school year, reestablishing their friendships, and…well..having to wake up early again, parents confront concerns about new teachers interacting with their child, and the school understanding the challenges of hydrocephalus and providing the proper support for success.
Here are a couple simple tips for starting the school year on the right foot:
1. Attend Open House or Back-to-School night, introduce yourself to your child’s teacher(s), and begin the important task of creating open lines of communication. Most teachers now actually like to communicate via email so exchange email addresses. They like to know that you are there for any questions, concerns, or support with academics.
2. Provide the teacher(s) with valuable resources describing hydrocephalus and the learning challenges your child faces. Here are just some of the resources for your child’s teacher that you can find on our website:
- About Hydrocephalus a Book for Families (English & Spanish)
- A Teacher’s Guide To Hydrocephalus – We recommend you go through this book and highlight what pertains to your child before handing this to your child’s teacher(s).
- Social Skills Development in Children with Hydrocephalus
- Learning Disabilities in Children with Hydrocephalus
- Nonverbal Learning Disorder Syndrome (NLDS)
- Pediatric Neuropsychology
- Neuropsychological Findings in Congenital and Acquired Childhood Hydrocephalus
3. Review your child’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan to remind yourself what it includes and make sure it is still the right fit for your child. Make a note of the expiration date, as well. It’s important to know if your child’s plan is up for reevaluation.
Remember: You can ask to hold a meeting to review your child’s IEP or 504 Plan if you feel it needs to be adjusted.
You may find these resources helpful as you advocate for your child:
- Individualized Education Programs: Communication Skills for Parents
- Section 504 Plan Checklist
- The Complete IEP Guide, How to advocate for your Special Ed Child.
- Special Education Mediation U.S. Office of Special Education Programs- A Guide for Parents
- Parent to Parent USA: offer parent to parent support as a core resource for families with children who have a special health care need, disability, or mental health issue
4. Schedule a meeting with the Resource teacher and your child’s teacher to review the plan for executing supports and accommodations, particularly if your child has an IEP or 504 Plan. If your child is old enough, have them participate and even lead the meeting. In that meeting you can:
- Create a plan for regular communication between the school, you, and your child.
- Create a system to notify your child of missing assignments.
- Create a method between you and the teacher to support your child in completing large assignments.
5. Put together a one-page document about your child that contains a brief medical history, signs of shunt failure (and any other medical conditions you would like to note), doctor contact information, and hospital preference. You can view a sample document that one of our moms updates and submits yearly to her child’s teachers here: SAMPLE One-Page School Symptom Sheet.
6. Establish home routines that support independence. Many of our kids struggle with Executive Function disabilities. Simple process lists around the house can establish solid before- and after-school routines as well as morning and nighttime routines. Adjust them according to your child’s age and needs. These can be very helpful at any time from kindergarten through high school. To see two samples from one of our moms, click here for the Home Routine Cards 2010 and here for the Home Routine Cards 2012.
“I have a morning and nighttime list hanging on the bedroom wall, a bathroom list next to the mirror in the bathroom, and before and after school lists in our kitchen. It allows my daughter to move through her own routine without me nagging. It makes her feel good to do these things on her own without forgetting something.” – Amanda, mom of Gabriela, age 12.
Tech Savvy? For the more tech savvy parents and kids, look for appropriate apps that can walk your child through their before and after school routines as well as help organize homework, etc.
7. Organize all of your administrative paperwork. A three-ring binder can be one of the most effective ways to keep your child’s special education documentation, meeting notes, and IEPs/504s in sequential order. It’s also easy to grab (or even keep in your car) when you’re running to a meeting from work!
8. Come up with a plan with your child to help clean out their book bags, folders, desks and lockers on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. This allows you to see their work and helps them remove the clutter to be able to more easily stay focused and organized.