Back To School: Preparation

I know you don’t believe me (because I can’t seem to grasp the concept myself) but technically we have about 6 more weeks of summer, which means it is time for my back to school series of blogs. (It can’t go by too fast for me…)

Since we are so early, I am going to begin with “Preparing for School to Begin”. Please remember these are things that have worked for my family, and are by no means a guarantee for your family, but, they are my "two cents" so READ ON!

Routine (where are you my old friend?):

I spend the last two weeks of summer getting the “school routine” back in our systems. This means that we are up in the morning, on routine, getting ready for the day, eating breakfast, lunch, snacks and play on a very similar schedule to what they will be on when school starts. I think it is important to get my son’s mind and stomach working on schedule. At our school, there are no “second breakfasts” or “snack before lunch”, which means that I need his body in sync with that schedule, and not a hungry growling belly when there is no food. Oh, and my favorite; bedtime. They officially go to bed ON TIME every night. No “it is summer” crap. *evil laugh*

School Supplies:

We are not obsessed with Gluten free school supplies just yet, but I did find this great list of gluten free options should you have to purchase your own school supplies for any reason (here it is on TACA OR on this blogger's site too). I am not sure what we are doing, but my good old fashioned mommy advice is to start shopping the sales now. You can save some serious cash by picking up pieces here and there before the “official” list comes out.


This is a biggie for us. We have to have a “cool” backpack in my mind (can’t have stuffed lions sticking out of it with Pooh Bear cuddling Piglet for an 8 year old boy—even if he wants it—the least I can do is shield him from the more obvious forms of ridicule).

Secondly, in my experience it NEVER pays to buy a cheap backpack. Remember: This is going to be a chew toy for your child about 2+ hours a day for the next 10 months. It is going to lose its tags, its labels, and the adjustable straps will spend more time wet than dry. It is for that reason that I also highly recommend the darker colored straps (no light blue or pink or grey or whatever) as they get filthy fast.

And thirdly, it is important to us to buy a backpack that fits my son well. Why? Because I use it year round as a way to add heavy work to his normal day. If I am running errands, I fill it up with books for “waiting games” (but really just so he has something heavy to carry around should he need it), or if we are going to my mom’s house, I pack it up and let him wear it around the house as a way to keep him calm and organized while we are waiting. Works like a charm! So, that said, I want it to fit his back well and have appropriate padding and structure as to not inadvertently cause injury.


Yes, I think clothing matters. The simple answer is that people judge our kids everywhere they go, and having clothes that are relatively nice, stylish and matching makes a difference in how they are perceived. I achieve this most easily, since I have all boys, with basic T-shirts, shorts, jeans, sweats/athletic pants and a hoodie. Obviously where you live, the weather and the age of your child all matter. But boys are seriously easier in the clothes department than girls (not that I would *object* to some clothing arguments if it meant I got a girl…).

It is also my experience that if I buy certain “outfits”—you know where the pants or shirt only matches one thing--it is BAD. We can never be organized enough to have both pieces clean and available, let alone expect that Gabriel knows which shirt goes with which pants. Too much work. The easier it is for my son to select his own outfit, that is close-enough to good looking the better. Again, can’t go wrong with a T-shirt and jeans.

OK—I hear you screaming “MY KID WON’T WEAR JEANS!!” Gotcha. Go with basic sweats then, check out some stores to find the coolest version of whatever your kiddo will wear in STANDARD colors. No purple sweat pants for boys, no sweat pants that look like something else (ie Khaki colored or stripes, etc). Basics. Can’t go wrong with basics.

I also subscribe to the theory of buying “cool” clothes. Yes, I know it shouldn’t matter if you have the “right” brands or not, but in the real world, it does. For this reason, I take my son shopping to select *some* of the clothes he will get for back to school (budget has to reign supreme here). I do not think it matters if you are taking them to Nordstrom, Gap, Old Navy, Target, or a second hand store. I shop at all of them. Good quality nice clothing that your child thinks is cool and gets the stamp of mom approval is worth it. Just my two cents, feel free to disagree.

Meeting the Teacher:

I sincerely hope you have built into your IEP a summer meeting and the opportunity to assist in teacher selection (or at least receive prior to fall knowledge of your child’s new teacher). If not, we’ll get to that in the IEP post…but for now….

The first meeting with your child’s teacher during the summer is key. I think it is never too early to start bribing. : ) Don’t just show up to the meeting with a list of your demands, ten volumes on what the teacher should learn before school starts and a set of binders containing every single interaction with the school district, alphabetized and color coded for their convenience. It doesn’t exactly give the “I am a great person and you’re gonna love working with me and my kid this year” vibe.

Yes there is a LOT to give them, but we want to give it to them in little doses.

Simmer it down. No matter how great your info is, how fantastic the teacher is or how incredibly crazy your child was last year, this new teacher is not interested in a 3 hour monologue-style education on your son’s personal acronyms.

Give your child’s teacher the bullet pointed skill deficits they need to know ON DAY ONE (hopefully your IEP is pretty extensive already, again, if not, that’s a post that will come up) verbally.

Like Sensory: “My child needs help regulating his body, you will see the sensory information in his IEP and that will definitely affect him on day one”,

Handwriting “Handwriting is a struggle for us, and so you will notice that his isn’t up to par. Although the OT is working on this, it is important that for all handwriting tasks that my son have a scribe present, even on day one”,

Social “My son really struggles with social interactions, and a large group of new kids on day one is going to be hard for him. If you could help make some introductions or do a name game to get him going, that would be great help”, and

Embarrassment Management “My son embarrasses easily; this can quickly cause a meltdown. If his behavior is inappropriate, a quieter reprimand is much more likely to be successful than one in front of the whole class.”

This type of information feels manageable to everyone.

After describing how each of those are likely to manifest themselves on day one (yes, I hate to say it, but let’s manage day one before day 124, right?), you can give the teacher the opportunity to ask you questions and to elaborate on certain skill deficits.

This is something that both the teacher and you can handle.

I think leaving the teacher with some information they can read is OK (and is exactly why I wrote my book, but the damn thing isn’t published yet!! Anyone have a spare $2k?). But make it user friendly—print off no more than like 3 pages, that you have hopefully written up yourself that paraphrases what is going on with your kiddo and what kinds of things the teacher can do to make this year successful.

DO NOT hand the teacher a list of websites and a pile of books. BAD impression.

DO bring your short list, papers, a handmade picture from your kid (letter, or drawing, or photo from summer fun, etc) for a personal touch, and some home-baked cookies never hurt anyone.

DO assure your child’s teacher that although you have confidence in the school staff (stretching the truth here isn’t bad), you are always available via email or phone to help problem solve for your child. You should be seen as a RESOURCE for the teacher—if you ever need anything, do not hesitate to ask! : )

I want my son’s teacher to think I am an asset to the classroom – even though I don’t directly volunteer in the classroom (younger kids at home, but *if* Matthew ever potty trains, he’ll be in preschool this fall! Yippie!)—you have ways of showing that your child’s presence in the teacher’s classroom is a positive thing. You provide resources, ideas, and support for the entire class. Team Player Baby!

School Lunch (snack, parties, etc):

I am honestly terrified about what to do about food at school this year. I have no good advice as of yet, but as we get closer I will have my game plan in place. I am workin' my options to keep Gabriel GFCF at school, since it has done wonders for him in the last week, I would like to see what kind of impact it will have on his ability to learn at school. Wouldn't that be helpful. As I gather my new info on the dozen or so parent-run GFCF blogs out there, I suggest you stick with the Talk About Curing Autism site that has more easy-to-find information that anywhere else I have found--you know, if you can't wait for my blog post. LOL And please feel free to send me your advice, and I will post it in the GFCF back to school blog post later.

So by now you have a well dressed, well equipped, and well rested child ready to start school.

Now, if only that was tomorrow. LOL

I am going to post more on IEPs and Teacher Interactions as well as the GFCF thing in the future, but this should get you thinking of how to make this a fantastic year!!

Yes, I know how nervous you are, so am I, isn’t that what summer is all about? Stressing about the *next* school year?

Go get some sun,


Krystal said...

Your family is beautiful. Those boys are seriously handsome :)

I found your blog about a week ago, and I have been catching up on reading. I read through your favorite posts list - cried through some of them - and just wanted to say thank you so much for sharing so much information and experience!!! I really appreciate this post and look forward to more about getting ready for school (especially IEP guidance - please help this lost momma!). Thank goodness DS will still be in preschool this year, but I have a lot to learn before next year!

Kelley Wilson said...

Hartley you rock! I just found your site thanks to the sensory planet social network and ordered your book. I have SPD 1st grader who is in private school which does not offer services. I just got approval to donate a OT room adn ahve an OT come to the school for therapy for kids. I am also doing a teacher inservice with my OT and love your checklist. If you have any other sheets like the info you talked about in this article I would love to see it, I am trying to put a packet together to hand out.