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Back to school

9 Back-to-School Tips From Our Founding Partners

By The Understood Team

102Found this helpful
102Found this helpful

How can you help your child thrive in the new school year? Our founding partners—all leading nonprofit organizations in the field of learning and attention issues—are here to help. Check out these back-to-school tips from Common Sense Media, GreatSchools, Child Mind Institute and more.

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Give your child a fresh start.

“Your child will always have a learning or attention issue. But each new school year is a chance for a fresh start, with new challenges and opportunities. Talk about these changes with your child. Encourage him to talk with his teachers about how he can learn best in this new environment. This will help him feel more confident about the new school year, and help him develop self-advocacy skills that will last a lifetime.”

—Marcus Soutra, President, Eye to Eye

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Acknowledge your child’s feelings.

“Children often feel nervous about starting school. Finding their classroom, meeting new teachers and being in a different class than friends from last year—these changes can feel very big to kids. It can be tempting to reassure your child by dismissing his fears (“Nothing to be worried about! You’ll be fine!”). Instead, listen to him and acknowledge his feelings. Having the chance to talk through his worries will make your child feel more secure—and help you get an idea of where he might need extra support in the coming year.”

—Rae Jacobson, Writer, Child Mind Institute

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Dig out the IEP or the 504 plan.

“If your child has an IEP or 504 plan, dig it out and schedule a meeting with the school staff. The first few weeks of school are when teachers are getting to know students. Schedules are being adjusted, and students are settling into routines. Even if the last school year ended with services and supports in place, don’t assume that all will click into place. Reach out to teachers and others to ensure they know what you know! And whenever possible, include your child in the discussion.”

—Sheldon Horowitz, Ed.D., Senior Director of Learning Resources and Research, National Center for Learning Disabilities

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Get books in a format that works for your child.

“Now is the time to talk to your child’s teacher to find out what books, including textbooks, your child will be using this year in school. Many schools offer audiobooks and digital text-to-speech books for students with reading issues. If your child has a documented print disability like dyslexia, he can get digital text-to-speech books through Bookshare. If Bookshare doesn’t have the exact book your child needs, you can request that it be added.”

—Lisa Wadors Verne, Ph.D., Program Manager: Education, Research and Partnerships, Benetech

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Pick books for your child that you like, too.

“Make it a rule never to give a child a book you would not read yourself,” said George Bernard Shaw. Keep that in mind as your child heads back to school. Pick books for your child that are interesting and fun, and that you’d enjoy reading with him. You may even end up reading them aloud together.

—Noel Gunther, VP Learning and Interactive Media, WETA/Reading Rockets

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Go small with technology.

“There are so many digital tools that can help support your kid’s learning, organization and social-emotional skills as he heads back to school. But it can be quite overwhelming to know where to begin. Start by looking for just one app or website that’s the right level for your kid. Look for something that can adjust to your child’s needs. Tech Finder is a good place to search.”

—Christine Elgersma, Editor, Common Sense Media

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Consider a special education evaluation.

“If your child is having trouble with reading, math, writing or schoolwork, it’s important to find out why. Your child may have a learning issue, like a specific learning disability, and may need special education services. You have the legal right to ask your public school to evaluate your child for special education at any time—even at the start of a new school year.”

Patricia M. Lillie, President, Learning Disabilities Association of America

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Help your child find supporters.

“It’s important to help your child identify his support system early on. Whom does he trust and feel comfortable talking to? It could be a parent, relative, teacher, administrator, counselor, mentor or tutor. Your child needs to have people he can turn to for help as he heads back to school, and later once he leaves home. This way he won’t have to feel alone as he navigates through life.”

—Carol Lloyd, VP Editorial Director, GreatSchools

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Make time for self-care.

“As parents, we are often better at taking care of others than we are at taking care of ourselves. We care about our kids so much! But it’s important to take care of ourselves, so we can be there for our kids. This school year, make time for self-care, even for just a few minutes a day. Connecting with other parents can help you find the support to remain strong when things get tough.”

—Laura Maloney, Executive Director, Parents Education Network

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About the Author

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The Understood Team is composed of writers, editors and community moderators, many of whom have children with learning and attention issues.

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