Jan 1, 2024 | Special Education, Special Needs, Special Needs Child



Returning to school after the holiday break can be wrenching.

Students look forward to the Christmas break with great anticipation. Two whole weeks with no early-morning routine, no out-the-door before the sun comes up, no classwork, and no homework. For kids with disabilities, the holidays can also mean a respite from bullying, anxiety, and the extra strain of their learning challenges. As parents and students return to their regular schedules and settle in for the new year, here are some tips for making everyone’s life a little easier.

1. Prepare the night before. Making lunches, setting out clothing, and preparing homework before bedtime will make the next day much easier.

2. Create a sleep hygiene routine. Creating a regular nighttime routine tells the brain that bedtime and sleep are coming. The brain responds well to a sleep hygiene routine. Think of putting away electronic screens, preparing for tomorrow, taking a bath or shower, and turning down the sheets. Some old-fashioned reading—from a book—can help to send them off for the night.

3. Start the day off right. Set an alarm before you go to bed, and have your student set one, too. This helps them to become independent. Teach them to allow enough time to eat a good breakfast and get washed and brushed to leave on time. Rushing in the morning creates an anxious day and increases your chance of making mistakes and forgetting things.

4. Organize your child’s space at home. Create a space for your students to study and do work. It doesn’t have to be large, but it should be free of distractions during homework time.

5. Talk with the teachers and therapists. Make sure you advise the staff who work with your child about any changes or difficulties encountered over the holiday. Talk with the staff about any ideas you may have that could help your child, and listen to their ideas, too. While staff are busy and are also transitioning back after the break, they’ll be happy to know about anything they can do to enhance your child’s learning experience.

6. Organize your child’s space at school. Work with your child’s teacher on the organization of your child’s desk or other areas. Many teachers and occupational therapists utilize tools like color coding and end-of-the-day planning time to help students be and stay organized.

7. Use a planner or calendar. You can have a homework checklist that goes between the parent and the teacher and also use a planner that you develop with your student. That helps him or her feel more organized.

8. Prioritize tasks. Sit with your child and encourage them to decide which tasks are the most important. They can tackle those tasks first, and the tasks will get easier as they go along.

9. Set SMART goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. You may have to adjust for your child’s developmental level. Example: Instead of “I want to read more this year,” use “I will read a new book every month.”

10. Time management. Once your student has prioritized their tasks, teach them to look at how much time they have to get the work done and how to allocate the right amount of time for each task.

11. Avoid multitasking. Studies have shown that multitasking does not work and is less efficient than focusing on one thing at a time.

12. Practice self-care. Teach your child to be realistic about how much they can do, how hard they should work, and how to know when to take a break. You can use HALT: Are they Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired? If so, maybe they need a 5-minute physical activity break, a snack, a short story, or a shower.

13. Reduce digital distractions. Screen time can be a time thief. Set limits on it.

14. Use memory aids. You can use old-fashioned Post-it notes, set timers and reminders, or consult the teacher or occupational therapist for more tips.

15. Reflect and adjust. As you move through the weeks of the new year, keep an eye on what’s working and what isn’t. Don’t be afraid to jettison what isn’t working or add something new that refreshes your child’s outlook

16. Lavish use of praise. Kids don’t need a lot of treats, but they do need rewards. Earning the love and pride of their parents is one of the most meaningful rewards they could get.

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