Monday, August 6, 2012

Don Peek: Getting Ready for School

This post is authored by Don Peek, a former educator and past president of the training division of Renaissance Learning. He now runs The School Funding Center, a company that provides grant information and grant-writing services to schools. To learn more, or to subscribe to the School Funding Center Grant Database, go to schoolfundingcenter.

Getting Ready for School

As everyone knows, summer is fading fast.  Students have a full spectrum of feelings and attitudes about the beginning of school each year.  Both parents and teachers have to recognize that fact and prepare students for the very best start possible.  This is true for special needs children just as it is for other students.

For students who have felt bored during the summer, the start of school may be an exciting time.  Going to buy school supplies and getting to shop for new school clothes can be an adventure.  Typically students who do well in school look forward to school opening more than other students, but that is not always the case.  When students are very social and have been cut off from their peers during summer vacation, they will likely look forward to going back to school regardless of how well they actually do in their coursework.

Special needs children who do not do well in school and do not do well socially may dread the beginning of school.  Parents and teachers need to work and plan to make the transition from summer vacation to the beginning of classes as painless as possible.  That’s not always an easy task, but it is possible.  Buying clothes and school supplies may not be fun, but if you go to a game room and an ice cream parlor while you’re out shopping, it might at least make the trip tolerable.

I also want parents and teachers to know that just because a child hasn’t done well in school before and has never looked forward to starting school in the fall, it’s not out of the question for that pattern to change.  I’ve mentioned before that I have an autistic grandson.  He went to intermediate school and part of middle school in one state, then my son took another job and had to move him to another state.

The transition for my grandson was amazing.  When he went to the first school, he never had anything good to say about his teachers or his school.  Since he has attended his new school (now in his senior year), he has always looked forward to going to school and for the school year to begin.

He’s still autistic.  He still has the same problems at school and outside of school most associated with autism, but his attitude toward school and how well he does in school has changed dramatically.  I can’t help  but think that the attitude and actions of his teachers, the way the special education program is run, and the way other students are taught to respect special needs students all have had an impact on my grandson and his education in his new school.

Yes, his teachers have had to call home because of his behavior at times (especially when he changed his medication).  And, yes, some students have made fun of him at times (we are talking about a real middle school and high school here), but overall his experience with school has been dramatically different.

If you are a parent, regardless of the disability of your child, give some special thought about the problems your child might have returning to school this year.  If you are a teacher, think long and hard how you can make each special needs student feel welcome at school and as successful as possible.  Both the attitudes and actions of parents and teachers can have a dramatic impact on students as they return to school.  Never doubt that.  Be just as positive as you possible can with every special needs child.
Grant info:
Grant Name:  Tommy Wilson Memorial Grant

Funded By:  American Association for Physical Activity and Recreation

Description:  The Tommy Wilson Memorial Grant supports recreational programs for individuals with disabilities

Program Areas:  Disabilities, Special Education

Recipients:  Public School, Private school, High Ed, Other

Proposal Deadline:  December 1st each year

Average Amount:  $500.00 - $1,500.00

Availability:  All States


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