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A Pediatric Perspective

Back to School Tips

Published August 22, 2014 2:30 PM by Wendy Spoor-Hof
I can't believe how fast this summer has flown by. I can remember when I was a kid and it felt like the summer went on forever. So slow that by the end of it I was ready to go back to school, if you can believe that!

My oldest started his junior year of college this past Wednesday and my youngest starts his sophomore year of high school next Wednesday. I was in the car with my youngest this morning and I mentioned that we had to start getting up early beginning Sunday so we can be ready for Wednesday. He looked at me total perplexed and asked "Why? What happens on Wednesday?" He thought he still had a couple weeks left. 

So my blog this week is dedicated to getting ready for school and sharing some strategies that may help make the transition from our more relaxed summer days to the more routine and scheduled school days an easier one.

Wakeup - If the student is used to getting up whenever they wanted to over the summer or, at least, later than they had to when they were getting up for school, it is important to start getting them up earlier now. Depending on how much time you have before school starts, begin with getting up at least 15 minutes earlier every couple of days. If you don't have as much time, begin with getting them up 15 minutes earlier each morning until you reach the typical time you would get up for school.

Bedtime - The same type of strategy used for wake up time can also be used for bed time. If the student is used to staying up later than their school-time bedtime it is important to get them ready to falling asleep closer to that time again. It is important to remember that turning off ALL electronics at least an hour prior to bedtime helps to slow down the brain and get the student ready for sleep.  Studies have shown that electronics at bedtime keep our brains functioning long after we try to close our eyes and sleep. 

Reading - As we all know school means reading. Students will have to read from their text books, from web pages when doing research, and from library books to meet their reading goals. Reading is one thing my youngest son despises more than anything else in the world right now. With dyslexia and memory processing disorders, it makes it very hard for him to read and retain what he is reading.  We use a wonderful app that is available on the computer and on his iPad called "Bookshare/Read2Go."  This application will not just read up-to-date books to him, but highlights the words as it reads so he can follow along. 

We started his summer reading right when he got back from camp. He has picked a book from the school's required reading list on the Iditarod and loves it. Try to find a book that will interest your student.  It could be one that goes along with his hobby or one that goes along with a subject he might like to know more about. The more interest they have in it, the better chance they will have of finishing it. It also helps if you set limits on reading.  A student who has a hard time reading will look at a book and feel overwhelmed so set either a time limit or a chapter limit. Break the book down to make it less overwhelming and more achievable. This will make reading time less of a chore and the student will be able to feel successful after meeting their time limit/chapter limit.

What to Expect - This is especially important for younger children or children who experience stress/anxiety about going back to school. Share with the student what their day may look like.  If possible, see if you can get a tour of the school so they will know where their classrooms are and where they will need to go for lunch, library, gym, etc. The more the child knows the more comfortable the child will be when school starts. The more comfortable they feel, the more successful going back to school will be.

Supplies - If possible, have the student go with you to get their supplies. Allow them to pick out the notebooks and pencils and pencil carriers. Let them chose the backpack they want. If they go to school with some favorite things, they will feel more comfortable. Also be careful what backpack they chose.  You can find guidelines here on what sizes are best for students. Many children go back with backpacks that are much too big and heavy for them. This can cause physical pains and injuries. It can also make it very hard for them to get from classroom to classroom.

Try to keep in mind that the student may take some time to adjust both at home and at school with the new routines and demands placed on them. The first few days they may even go home and fall asleep before dinner. When possible it is a good idea to allow more open communications between teachers, therapists, and parents the first couple of weeks so each one knows what is going on. If something is not working well everyone will know and hopefully be able to share strategies to fix what isn't working well. 

"Tell me and I forget.  Teach me and I remember.  Involve me and I learn."  -Benjamin Franklin

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