A Parent’s Toolkit for a Smooth Start to School

Support Children and Build a Strong Foundation for Learning

The arrival of each back-to-school season can create a sense of excitement and anticipation in many; it presents an opportunity for new beginnings and the promise of growth, fueling the ambitions of those who are eager for these unknowns. For others, the school year brings on feelings of anxiety, dread and fear. Change, after all, can be challenging. For children with special needs and their parents, this anxiety can be amplified, as there are so many other factors to be considered in the quest for positive personal and educational development. Here at CTC, we wish to help families who are navigating this venture through therapeutic support and collaboration with school teams, all supported by meaningful connection and communication. Happy school year!


Going to My New School

Author Stephanie Chan utilizes a first-person narrative in Going to My New School that reads like a social story by putting the reader into the main character’s perspective. A perfect read prior to school to help with transitions!

Product: noise-cancelling headphones

For parents of children with auditory sensitivity to sound, consider investing in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones to reduce the impact of auditory assaults that are present in everyday life.

Quote of the Month

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

– Nelson Mandela

Navigating Back to School

A guide for parents of children with special needs

For parents and children alike, beginning school or returning after the summer absence can incite both excitement and challenges. This time can be particularly difficult for parents of children with special needs, as more effort is required to ensure that the transition into the school year goes as smoothly as possible. However, with thoughtful planning, open communication and a strong support network among parents, school staff and other service coordinators from private therapies can make an enormous impact on a child’s academic, social and emotional success.

Open Communication

Be sure to openly communicate your child’s strengths, challenges, preferences and triggers to all of your children’s teachers and providers. Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) are individualized for a reason. You have a say in making sure that the goals, accommodations and modifications that are suggested are catered to their specific, individual needs, so make sure to advocate for them at meetings and request any changes you would like to be made.

Ease into the School Year

Change, particularly for children with special needs, is often very challenging. Prepare them ahead of time by incorporating books about school into reading time, creating a social story that includes pictures of their actual school, visiting the school grounds and meeting teachers and/or providers ahead of time, if possible.

Address Sensory Needs

All children benefit from movement for meaningful learning. For children with sensory processing challenges, movement is a necessity. Work with your child’s team to ensure that there are movement breaks, sensory-friendly spaces, fidgets and/or quiet areas incorporated into the IEP or 504 Plan.

Establish Routines

Consistent daily schedules can be a great help to your child, and they are not just beneficial in school. Use visual schedules, calendars or charts to visually display in your home to provide a sense of structure, which can be reassuring to those who struggle with unpredictability and change. Be sure to incorporate rest and play times along with school work and therapy!

Be Sure to Socialize

Socialization does not come naturally to many children with special needs. While it may seem easier to simply shy away from events that may cause anxiety or discomfort, your child will not have an opportunity to learn how to interact with others if they are not given the chance to do so. Even if it’s stepping out of your comfort zone, make an effort to meet other parents and suggest a play date with your little ones, or go even bigger by facilitating a community event that will help similar groups engage in a positive manner.

Make Connections

Often, a lovely outcome of trying to establish friendships between your child and other peers is creating a bond with those peers’ parents. Having a network of people whom you can openly share your experiences, challenges and successes can not only provide you with insights you may have not thought of on your own, but it can improve your mental and emotional well-being. Never underestimate the power of personal connection!


Back-to-School Healthy Eating

A look back on some of our favorite recommended lunch staples!

Hard-Boiled Eggs

Hard-boiled eggs are an easy, portable and protein-packed lunch idea that many kids will love. Cut in halves and include a small container of spice (Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend is great for dipping egg halves in!) or mash it with mayonnaise and include crackers for scooping.


Soups may seem difficult to include in your child’s lunch (who’s going to heat it up?) but an easy tip can help you include this satisfying meal: simply fill a thermos with boiling water while you pack lunches, let it sit for several minutes, then dump and fill with soup. It will stay toasty until the lunch bell rings!

Dehydrated Fruit

Sending apple slices or a whole banana with your child does not always seem ideal, as it can brown or half will be wasted. Consider sending unsweetened dried or dehydrated fruit instead- they’ll still reap the benefits of antioxidents, and leftovers can be salvaged.

Dark Chocolate

Instead of filling your child’s lunch with processed pastry products or candy with artificial colors and ingredients, pack a square or two of a high quality dark chocolate, preferably 70% or greater. They’ll enjoy a chocolate boost with added brain benefits!

Monitor Progress

Be sure to regularly review your child’s progress in their academic environment and be willing to adjust and make changes to their IEP or 504 Plan if current strategies do not seem to be making a positive impact.

Provide Emotional Support

School can be an overwhelming experience for many children, even when the appropriate sensory strategies are implemented throughout their day. As a result, they may exhibit the most frustrating behaviors at home after a long day of stimulation. Teach them strategies that they can utilize in moments of dysregulation, such as deep breathing, stretching, listening to music or receiving deep pressure. Creating a visual board of these strategies can be especially helpful as a visual reminder, and providing choices (i.e., Would you like to have a big hug or do you want your headphones with music?) can help them regain a sense of control. Acknowledging their emotions (i.e., You’re feeling frustrated; I understand) can also provide the emotional support they need to calm their nervous system.

Encourage Independence

It’s easy to fall into the routine of helping your child with daily and/or academic tasks, especially when they have not mastered a certain skill. Monitor your reaction times and work on giving them more time and space to build independence and a sense of accomplishment. Initially, this may mean more tears, outbursts and eraser marks, but remember that achieving more independence is always a goal to strive for when it comes to helping our children grow.

Celebrate Achievements

Communicating with your child’s team on a regular basis can keep you aware of their accomplishments, both big and small. Make sure to acknowledge and celebrate them! Display positive written notes from teachers or therapists and communicate your pride to your child. This fosters a positive attitude toward learning and provides the nurturing environment that will help them thrive.

Ultimately, helping children with special needs transition into the school year can certainly be a stressful process that brings a unique set of challenges; but with patience, determination and a supportive community of people, the common goal of supporting your child can be accomplished and the school year can be a win!

Content of this newsletter was written by:
Megan A. Miller, M.S., CCC-SLP

Please contact Megan with any questions or comments at: megan@ctctherapy.com