Back to School Stress for Students with Disabilities

Back to School Stress for Students with Disabilities
photo: Elizabeth Albert, Creative Commons
photo: Elizabeth Albert, Creative Commons

Transitioning from summer back to a school routine can be challenging for any family. For families that have a child or an adolescent with a disability, it can be an even more challenging and stressful experience. Any type of disability, whether it is a learning or developmental disability, adds extra steps and difficulties to daily routines. Going back to school brings the stress of new teachers, increased classroom expectations, unfamiliar social situations, and changes in the IEP or 504 plan.

Here are a few ways you can help your student manage the stress and changes of going back to school.

1. Set achievable and realistic goals. 

It is best practice to review your child’s IEP or 504 plan at the beginning of each year. Look at what goals were met, what goals need to be extended, and where the most improvement was seen. Many kids have specific learning strategies that work for them. Use what works, and work with your support team to figure out how to modify other strategies to fit your child’s style.

2. Create a plan of attack for homework. 

Completing schoolwork is often the biggest challenge for all families. Avoid homework wars by having a set routine. Often it is better to have children do the homework as early as possible during the day to avoid late night struggles. Have a dedicated homework spot where you can get organized and strategize about how best to complete the work. Don’t be afraid to use rewards for accomplishments even if they seem small!

3. Talk about social skills.

Your kid’s social maturity may or may not reflect their academic skills. Work on social skills at home and be explicit about expectations. Use encouragement to reward positive social skills. The more specific the encouragement the better!


Laura Lebovitz


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