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Back to School- Tips for parents of kids with special needs

By Lori Wilson, Executive Director at Carriage House Educational Services.

The start of the school year can be a very exciting time for the whole family. Daily routines are back in order, the air slowly becomes crisp, and pumpkin flavored everything is right around the corner!  However, for families and children with special needs, this can also be a very challenging time.  Below are some strategies that we hope may help to reduce some of this stress.

  • Visual Schedules
    Utilizing a visual schedule at home can be very helpful. Think of it as the planner or digital calendar that you check each morning as you start your day.  As adults, we like to know ahead of time how our day will flow and what to expect. Many children are the same! These visual schedules can be as detailed or generalized as your child needs. For example, your child’s schedule could be as broad as bus, school, bus, home OR as specific as potty, brush teeth, dress, breakfast, bus, school, bus, home, etc. Teachers Pay Teachers is a great resource for downloads.
  • First/Then Boards

    Understanding the order of activities can be very helpful for many children. Using a first/then board provides structure and predictability. It is a quick and easy way to introduce a new activity, routine, or event. For many children, it eases stress and provides motivation. For example, it could be as simple as first school, then home OR first crayons, then tablet.  Here’s a link to free downloads 

  • Team Approach & Advocacy
    The more professionals you can have working together for your child the better! Encourage open dialogue between everyone who plays a role in your child’s development. Advocate for team meetings and collaboration. If every player is on the same page, your child will better know what to expect, be able to generalize amongst settings and overall, make more progress! 


Being a parent is never an easy task and when our children are struggling, it can be daunting. On the tough days, just remember that you are not alone! Try to find opportunities for self-care, even if that only means five-minutes of quiet at the end of the day. Routine changes can be difficult, but always remember that tomorrow is a new day!