It’s that time of year again! Back-to-school season is here!
It’s tough to leave the fun of summer behind and head back to school. If your youngster has Tourette or another condition, back-to-school time can be even more challenging. Here are some time-tested tips to help you, your son or daughter and your family cope with all the demands of the new school year:
- Education Plan Review: dust off this multi-page document and go through it slowly. Write notes that include questions or comments. If the plan needs adjusting, in your opinion, contact your son or daughter’s principal about a review meeting. Some plans may have built-in review times, check your child’s plan for this. Don’t be nervous about talking to the school about the plan. As a parent, it is reasonable to ask questions abou this plan.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate: Talk to your son or daughter’s teacher about what works and what doesn’t. You know your child best. You’ve most likely had different experiences with different teachers. Pass this experience on to the current teacher. Establish a set method that you and the teacher will use to communicate with each other during the year (ex. a log that goes in your child’s backpack). You may also want to meet with the Principal to discuss your child’s needs as well. Don’t be afraid to make suggestions. Listen to what your son or daughter’s teacher and/or Principal have to say as well. You may know your child, but they’ve seen a lot of students. They could have helpful suggestions and advice. They will be with your son or daugther for many hours during the week. Do your best to establish a positive, open, and considerate relationship with one another to ensure that the school year starts off on the right foot. Try not to be negative, overly bossy, or combattive. Be assertive but also be collaborative. You are all on the same team and have the same goal! If your son or daughter is in high school or has multiple teachers, you can request meetings with them or possibly exchange emails depending on the school policy around email.
- Routine Time: Establish routines for before and after school including a consistent bedtime (even on weekends). Schedule time for homework each day or every couple of days. Consistent routines will help your son or daughter know what to expect and to better transition from home to school and back. Support your son or daughter in starting positive study habits at the beginning of the year rather than right before things are due or a test.
- Keep Your Kid in the Loop: Talk to your child about school. Ask them how they feel and if they are worried about anything. Re-assure them that you will support them and ask what would help them feel better. If your child is older, talk to them about any special arrangements or accommodations they will have in school to help them do their best. They may have some suggestions for coping with school. Help them to feel comfortable talking about this. Anxiety prior to starting school is common. If they are feeling physicially ill or are in distress because of the upcoming school year, consider getting them some professional support. Tourette Canada has a counsellor who can speak with them or you over the phone about this. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
- Home Calendar: Put a master calendar in your home in a common room that marks fun activities, birthdays, school trips, deadlines and tests so that everyone is on the same page. Review it together occasionally. Use it to help your child become comfortable with what is coming up in school.
- After-school activities: Tics often disappear when a person is doing an engaging activity that they enjoy. If you can, consider signing your son or daughter up for an after-school activity that they enjoy. After school activities do not need to be structured. You can set aside time on every week to play basketball with your child on the driveway/community centre or plan a day when you go to the park as a family.
- Special school supplies: Consider buying school supplies that will help with your child’s particular needs at school. Examples include: special grips for pencils, visual organizers, and coloured paper. Involve your son or daughter in picking out some fun school supplies, if possible.
- Exercise: Make time for physical exercise in your son or daughter’s schedule. Studies show that exercise leads to increased overall mental and physical health, and may even help to reduce tics!
9. Safe zone: Establish a special safe zone at home where your child can go to tic freely after or before school. In this zone, your child should be able to perform their tics without worrying that they will be disrupting others. Allow them to go to this space when they are at home as needed. Help them to feel comfortable to let out any tics they held during the day while they are in this space. This space doesn’t work for everyone. For some families, the entire home is a safe space where a child can tic. For others, this space is useful for releasing tics in privacy.
10. Don’t be hard on each other: During the transition back to school, you and your family may feel stress. That is okay. It is common to take a few weeks to adjust to a new environment and schedule. Don’t be too hard on each other (that includes not being too hard on yourself). Give your family and yourself time to adjust.
Are these tips helpful?
What do you do to cope with back-to-school season?