WASHINGTON– Going back to school means the lazy days of summer are over, but for families of children with special needs, it can be especially challenging. The Episcopal Center for Children (ECC), a nonprofit, nondenominational day treatment facility for emotionally troubled children and their families in the greater Washington, D.C. metro area, offer the following tips to help families of children with special needs.

Tip #1 – Organize your paperwork and review the schedule. Review your child’s Individual Education Plan (IEP). Do you have any new medical or psychological reports that the school should know about? Talk with school staff to make sure their plans for your child match the goals in the IEP and to ensure they are up to aware of your child’s current status. Make sure you know where your child’s classroom is, any transportation plans, contact information for critical school staff (i.e. teacher, therapist, principal, etc.) and what he or she will need to bring each day.

Tip #2 – Calm any stress or first day jitters your child may have. Whether it’s a new classroom or familiar surroundings, children may be nervous about starting back to school. Talk with your child about their feelings. Assure your child that while it may be a little nerve-wracking, going back to school will be a good thing. Inform school staff of your child’s anxiety so that they can be attentive and assist your child through her or his first day.

Tip #3 – Delay getting new school clothes. You may think a new outfit will help calm first day jitters, but for some children with special needs, new clothes may aggravate issues. For children with sensory issues, new clothes may feel itchy, stiff and uncomfortable. If your child needs it, let him or her wear clothes that are comfortable and familiar for the first few days of school.

Tip #4 – Help your child “picture” going back to school. If your child is returning to a familiar school and you have photos showing him or her on campus or with friends or a teacher, show the photos to your child. If you visit the school before school starts, take a picture of your child on the school grounds or in his or her classroom, and show the photo to your child later at home. Some children are visual processers and benefit from these visual assurances. Create a visual countdown chart at home, so your child can help move the numbers as you count down to the start of the school year.

Tip #5 – Begin introducing new routines before school starts. Morning and afternoon routines can help your child transition into and out of school each day. You may need to establish an earlier bedtime routine to ensure your child is up on time and ready to go. Start thinking now about how you want to approach homework and talk with your child about how homework will be completed.

Tip #6 – Talk to the school staff about any of your concerns. Open communication helps children with special needs. Speak with school staff if you have noticed something new about your child that may impact their education program. Open communication with the schools staff will benefit your child. Because transitions are hard for many children with special needs, clarify with school staff how transitions are handled. Who greets children as they get off the bus? How are transitions between classes or activities handled?

Tip #7 – Go to school events. If the school has an open house, parent-teacher night, or back to school program, attend. Talk with the staff about your child’s progress. If you are not able to go, make a point of calling the teacher at another time and getting caught up on the information.

About the Episcopal Center for Children

The Episcopal Center for Children is a private nonprofit, nondenominational day treatment facility for emotionally troubled children and their families from the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Accredited by the Joint Commission, the Center offers a day treatment program for children who are 5-13 years old in grades K – 7 and focuses on enabling children to return to the public school and the community, while being able to re-engage with their families and build a positive future for themselves. More information is available at ECCofDC.org.

After an on-site accreditation review last fall, the Center was awarded a gold seal of excellence by the Joint Commission for its compliance with national standards in behavioral health care. The Joint Commission began accrediting the Center annually in 1998. The Center has been fully accredited since 1978. It was first accredited by the American Association of Psychiatric Services for Children.

Since its founding in 1894, the Center has served children – first as a convalescent home for sick children, then as an orphanage. Since 1959 the Center has served as a treatment center for emotionally troubled children. In 1959 it moved from a partial residential program to an intensive day program.

Media contact: Ami Neiberger-Miller, 703.887.4877, [email protected].