Does Your Child Have Special Needs? 4 Things to Ask Their School Now

By: Jennifer Twachtman-Bassett, MS, CCC-SLP, CCRP

As the new school year rapidly approaches, families are gearing up for changes in schedules, procedures, and rules. If your child has special needs, you may want to reach out to their teaching team for extra support helping them adjust.

Connecticut Children’s autism specialist Jennifer Twachtman-Bassett, MS, CCC-SLP, shares what to ask your child’s school.

1. Can you share a kid-friendly list of major changes to the school day?

Many schools have elaborate plans for reopening, and it may be hard to know which details to share with your child (and which might overwhelm them). So talk to your child’s school or teacher about obtaining a child-friendly list of how in-school schedules and procedures will be different this year. For example:

  • What changes are being made to arrival and dismissal?
  • Does my child now need to eat lunch in the classroom instead of the school cafeteria?
  • Is the structure and length of classes changing?
  • Will recess change?
  • Will my child be able to use a locker or do they need to carry their books with them?

> Is your child on the autism spectrum? Our autism specialists shares tips for the school year.

2. What are the new rules for my child’s age group?

Rule changes can be hard to adjust to, particularly for kids with special needs. They may be especially difficult for a child attending the same school as last year, since it’s easy to expect things to be the same.

So ask your child’s school to share the precise rules for your child’s age group (they should have a written policy), and if your child sees specialists or therapists, ask for suggestions for how to practice at home.

  • Masks: What are the rules for wearing masks? When can/will there be “mask breaks”? If my child needs a mask break, what is the best way for them to ask?
  • Social distancing: Will the school be using tape on the floor to show children where to stand? What other social distancing clues and instructions can I start teaching my child about now? What does this mean for standing in line, recess, P.E. Class, sports, etc.?
  • Using the restroom: Are some restrooms closed or closely monitored to ensure there are not too many students there at once?

> Here’s a list of what to practice for classroom safety during COVID-19.

3. Is the district proposing changes to my child’s IEP or 504 Plan?

  • How will therapies be done – in person or remotely?
  • How will group-based therapies or activities be done?
  • If my child participated in integrated programming, how will this occur? Will it change in some way?

4. What’s the best way for me to connect with my child’s teacher or school team?

Communication is key and you are the expert on your child! After you learn about school rules and expectations, the most important thing you can do is talk to your child’s teacher or school team about how you think your child will handle these changes.

  • If you think that your child needs extra help and guidance, say so!
  • Present any concerns that you have from the perspective of wanting to help your child work toward the goals of following all of the new school procedures and rules.
  • Determine where accommodations can be made for your child based on their special needs. For example, can your child get extra “mask breaks” if they go to a specific area for the break? Can your child visit the school before the school year begins to see how the environment has changed?

> For more helpful resources, check out our Back to School Kit

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