5 Back to School Tips for Your Special Needs Child

I know what you’re thinking; you’re ready to jump up and down because your kids are going to be BACK in school. While most of us haven’t forgotten Jen Hatmaker’s Worst Mom of the Year Confessions, let’s not start out the year that way, especially with your special needs kiddos! I have two,  one with autism and another with severe ADHD, so here are a few tips to get your kids rocking for the year so you can relax a bit.

1. Crank it back

Set bedtime back by 15 minutes every night and get them up 15 minutes earlier every morning. As the week progresses, add to it. So Monday night, they go to bed at 930, Tuesday night they hit the hay at 915. This allows their bodies and minds to adjust to a new routine.

2. Organize it

Create “stations” for their school items and make sure it all gets there the night BEFORE. If your teacher communicates with planners, have a designated spot for you or your child to put it every day. This goes for school clothes, shoes, coats or any other items needed before. It’s best to have it laid out, so you and your child aren’t searching for shoes, keys or pencil grips before racing off to school.

3. Create a visual schedule.

All of my children have visual schedules in their rooms. It was SO beneficial for my kids and easy to make. Since no two kids are alike, I make my own on Word. Here’s a FREE DOWNLOADABLE template to get Ready for school and here are a few symbols you can download and use for yourself. Otherwise, thumb through magazine articles for items like a man getting dressed or brushing teeth, cut those out and paste them to his visual schedule.



bed breakfast brush teeth bus dressed hair pray backpack














If printables and paper aren’t for you, consider APPS. Yes, there’s even an app for getting ready for school! Visit Smartappsforkids.com where you can customize a routine for your child like this one shown below. This is a motivator for my son to get up for the day because he gets to use the Ipod.


4. 5 Things You Need to Know

Because no two children are alike, create a short summary of what your child’s teacher may need to know about him. A sort of, “5 Things You Need to Know” about my child list. Of course, your child’s teacher will receive the “IEP” and notes from the previous year but kids make progress, manifest new quirks, and encounter new challenges as they grow. Include things like: New medications and what to look for like side effects of new medicines, how to capture his attention and keep him on task (we use a signal of holding up two fingers), what things trigger strong reactions, melt downs, and misbehaviors, how to motivate him, etc.

5. Test Drive

Even though my oldest is now in 8th grade, we still tour the school, meet the teachers, and practice walking through her schedule. Consider a test run with your child. Begin by actually going through the morning routine and take him to school. This reduces anxiety and builds confidence in both you and your child.


What tips do you have for your special needs child and getting ready for school? If you’re looking for more back to school tips, you can also check out Heather’s post: 10 Tips for Back to School

PicMonkey Collage (1)




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Heather Riggleman
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Heather Riggleman

Heather Riggleman is a coffee addict without a recovery plan. She is a Life Styles Reporter for the Kearney Hub Newspaper in Nebraska and is the columnist of "Chasing Perfect." She uses life experiences of being in her Father's hands to write about the messy, the beautiful, and the ordinary.being a mom to 3, and a wife of 17 years.
You can download a free copy of her ebook Let's Talk about Prayer www.heatherriggleman.com.
Heather Riggleman
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