Archives for back-to-school

Top Ten Tips for a New School Year


*upated 2012*

1. Be patient, the start of a new school year is always a challenge until things settle down and order gets established.

2. If you have a child with challenges, try to meet with the teacher as soon as possible.

3. Inquire early in the school year about your child’s IEP – try and have it done before the end of October. Advocate that it been done asap. This is important because it sets the stage for the whole year.

4. Read the BCACL’s booklet on Inclusive Education it is well-written and informative. The E Book has great live links.

5.  Introduce yourself to the principal. In my experience, the principal sets the tone for the school. Do your best to get their support.

6. In advance of the school year, plan what you think your child needs and ensure that it is encapsulated within the IEP

7. Remember your child has a right to be in school. It is the law.

8. Get to know the organizational structure in your school system so you know who to go to if issues arise. Who does the principal report to? And who in turn do that person report to? and so on…

9. Share information with the teacher and EA that they will need to support your child. If you require a formal meeting ask for one.

10. Work on building relationships with people at the school, talk to other parents, and get support from an advocate if you need it.

This year, get organized!


Wondering if getting organized is worth your time? Here are a few fun statistics to help you decide:

  • Getting rid of clutter eliminates 40 per cent of housework in an average home.
  • 23% of adults say they pay bills late (and thus incur fees) because they lose them.
  • Eighty per cent of the clutter in homes is a result of disorganization, not lack of space.

(Survey results from Ikea and the National Association of Professional Organizers)


PLUS, as the parent of a child with a disability, you will feel very powerful when you can put your hands on critical information and documents when you need them!  If you have a child with a disability the paperless society is still a long way off, you will accumulate paper, paper and more paper.    Attending a meeting? You might be asked to bring a document that you last saw on your kitchen table 3 months ago.  Where is it now?

First, pick an organization system you are comfortable with.  If you don’t like punching holes in paper don’t use a binder system just because your friend does it that way. 

Try experimenting with ideas you find on-line or that other parents have used and see what works for you.  At home I use a simple system of a few active files which I keep handy in an open file holder. Once or twice a year I file older items but I always keep current documents like IEP’s or assessments on hand.  Get a filing cabinet or a storage box and use it for old documents that you may need again but be ruthless and  THROW OUT outdated information. 

Some people have been successful with accordian-style paper holders.   You can buy these with many or only a few sections, it depends on your family’s needs.

Try Googling "Organization systems", "Get organized now" or "personal organization".  There must be a million ways to get organized and I think they are all on the internet! Look for good hints and tips, you don’t need to spend money for a fancy system.

A  few places to start:

Binder system (make your own):

Find lots of examples and links to sites for templates:

Vermont Family Network Care Notebook:  "Parents can purchase the
necessary components of a Care Notebook themselves at any office supply store",  and this site includes downloadable templates. 

Start the school year out right and get organized early.

Make a Family Tradition!


Create Memories, not anxieties!

Back-to-school is an anxious time for children AND parents. Try to make the whole experience something to remember with fondness by making up your own family tradition for the first day of school.

Many families take a yearly photograph on the first day of school.  From year to year you can compare how big they have grown!  And not just their backpacks!

Some families have a special event when the kids get home.  Go out for lunch or have a B-B-Q.  Take the time to find out who is in your child’s class this year and "Oh, my goodness, you have which teacher?  Yikes, didn’t your father have her for grade 3? She must be ready for retirement by now!"  

Make a Back-to-School advent calendar of activities.  Do something special every day for the week prior to back-to-school.  This might include re-jigging sleep schedules.  My kids always stay up later and get up later as summer goes by.  If it is part of their special back-to-school activities they might forgive you for the early bedtimes.

Some parents write a letter or a note on the first day of school, which their child can read during a free moment at school. Your letter might offer encouragement or point out specific things your child did that made you proud.

Shopping tips for Back-to-School



Check out these Canadian links on shopping for Back-to-School:


Globe & Mail, A lesson in back-to-school budgeting


Parent Central:  How to contain back-to-school shopping–how-to-contain-back-to-school-shopping


New Westminster NewsLeader:


WalletPop Canada: Six Tipsfor back-to-school



Use a Family Calendar


*updated 2012*

As a parent of a child with exceptional needs you are constantly juggling many balls at once. There are school meetings, your other children’s schedules, your work and home-life commitments and if you are lucky, a social life. Use a family calendar to get and stay organized.
1. Keep One Master Family Calendar
You’ll need one large family calendar where you can keep everyone’s schedule. Look for something that gives you a lot of space for writing appointments and details, and place the calendar in an area where you will see it regularly. Many calendars are based on an academic year, September to September, so this is the perfect time to get your new and improved calendar.  I keep my calendar on the counter right by my phone and I check it daily to be sure there’s not an upcoming event that I’ve forgotten.

2. Use a personal planner
Choose something that’s small enough to carry with you, but not so small that it’s a chore to read your own writing. Alternatively, you could use a smart phone or another  portable electronic organizer for this purpose.

3. Regularly Add Important Dates to Each Calendar
As soon as you receive the annual school calendar, add the pro-D days to your family calendar and your personal day planner. Don’t forget to add all those special days like birthdays and event invitations. Getting into the habit of adding items to your calendars regularly will help you gain control of your life.

4. Use Your Day Planner to Maintain Details
Your day planner is a perfect place to record directions, addresses, and phone numbers. Any detail you might need later can be kept in your day planner. For example, when you’re adding the date for your IEP review, you can include the location and a contact phone number in your day planner so you are prepared even if you lose the note from school.  Alternatively, buy a family calendar with large enough spaces to include these details.  Just do whatever works best for you!

5. Use Pencil
This is a simple recommendation, but it allows you to easily make changes to your calendar. The ability to keep it current and readable increases the chance that you’ll really use your family calendar regularly to keep your life’s activities organized.  I also have a pot of white-out nearby in case of a big boo-boo.

6. Check Your Calendar Daily
Get into the habit of checking your calendar regularly. For example, plan to check it every evening so you can plan your day.

7. Teach the Kids to Check the Family Calendar
As your children get older, you’ll want them to be in the habit of checking the family calendar, too. This will help prevent scheduling conflicts and help the entire family participate in the task of planning your schedules.  This is not just Mom’s job!

8. If You Can’t Find a Calendar That Works for You, Print Your Own
In addition to saving money, you can add important details to the template before the calendar is printed, such as monthly home projects, holidays, and birthdays. These actually make great family gifts, as well.

I have found DotXls good for free and simple excel templates:

or free craft calendars:

Office also has lots of free templates:

Or just Google "free calendar template" and pick and choose!


Skills for Academic Success


Skills for Academic Success,

adapted from "Homework Tips for Parents" by the Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities.

It’s never too early or too late to help your child develop the skills for academic success. Learn how to build these skills and stay on track all year long. It takes a combination of skills — organization, time management, prioritization, concentration and motivation — to achieve academic success.

Here are some tips to help get your child on the right track:

Talk to your child. To find out which of these skills your child has and which he can develop further, start a simple conversation that focuses on his goals. Ask him about his favorite subjects, classes he dreads and whether he’s satisfied with his latest progress report.
Listen for clues. Incorporate your own observations with your child’s self-assessment. Is your child overwhelmed by assignments? She may have trouble organizing time. Does your child have difficulty completing her work? She may get distracted too easily. Is your child simply not interested in school? She may need help getting motivated.
Identify problem areas. Start here to help your child identify which of the five skill areas are trouble spots. Most children say they want to do well in school, yet many still fail to complete the level of work necessary to succeed academically. The reason is often motivation. Tapping into your child’s interests is a great way to get him geared to do well in school.

1. Organization

Whether it’s keeping track of research materials or remembering to bring home a lunch box, children need to be organized to succeed in school. For many students, academic challenges are related more to a lack of organization than to a lack of intellectual ability.
Tips to help your child get organized:
• Make a checklist of things your child needs to bring to and from school every day. Put a copy by the door at home and one in his backpack. Try to check with him each day to see if he remembers the items on the list.
• Find out how your child keeps track of his homework and how he organizes his notebooks. Then work together to develop a system he will want to use.
• Shop with your child for tools that will help him stay organized, such as binders, folders or an assignment book.
• Conduct a weekly clean-up. Children should be encouraged to go through and sort out book bags and notebooks on a weekly basis. Old tests and papers should be organized and kept in a separate file at home.

2. Time Management

Learning to schedule enough time to complete an assignment may be difficult for your student. Even when students have a week to do a project, many won’t start until the night before it’s due. Learning to organize time into productive blocks takes practice and experience.
Tips to help your child manage time:
• Track assignments on a monthly calendar. Work backward from the due date of larger assignments and break them into nightly tasks.
• Help your child record how much time she spends on homework each week so she can figure out how to divide this time into manageable chunks.
• Together, designate a time for nightly homework and help your child stick to this schedule.
• If evenings aren’t enough, help your child find other times for schoolwork, such as early mornings, study halls or weekends.

3. Prioritization

Sometimes children fall behind in school and fail to hand in assignments because they simply don’t know where to begin. Prioritizing tasks is a skill your child will need throughout life, so it’s never too soon to get started.
Tips to help your child prioritize:
• Ask your child to write down all the things he needs to do, including non-school-related activities.
• Ask him to label each task from 1 to 3, with 1 being most important.
• Ask about each task, so that you understand your child’s priorities. If he labels all his social
activities as 1, then you know where his attention is focused.
• Help your child change some of the labels to better prioritize for academic success. Then suggest he rewrite the list so all the 1s are at the top.
• Check in frequently to see how the list is evolving and how your child is prioritizing new tasks.
4. Concentration

Whether your child is practicing her second-grade spelling words or studying for a trigonometry test, it’s important that she works on schoolwork in an area with limited distractions and interruptions.
Tips to help your child concentrate:
• Turn off access to email and games when your child works on the computer.
• Declare the phone and TV off-limits during homework time.
• Find space that fits the assignment. If your child is working on a science project, she may need lots of space; if she’s studying for a Spanish test, she will need a well-lit desk.
• Help your child concentrate during homework time by separating her from her siblings.

5. Motivation

Most children say they want to do well in school, yet many still fail to complete the level of work necessary to succeed academically. The reason is often motivation. Tapping into your child’s interests is a great way to get him geared to do well in school.
Tips to help motivate your child:
• Link school lessons to your child’s life. If he’s learning percentages, ask him to figure out the price of a discounted item next time you shop.
• Link your child’s interests to academics. If he’s passionate about music, give him books about musicians and show how music and foreign languages are connected.
• Give your child control and choices. With guidance, let him determine his study hours, organizing system or school project topics.
• Encourage your child to share his expertise. Regularly ask him about what he’s learning in school.
• Congratulate your child, encourage him and celebrate all his successes. Often what holds children back from trying is the fear of failure or the memory of a time they didn’t do well. You can help break this cycle by celebrating your child’s successes, no matter
how small, and by giving him opportunities to succeed academically.

 Learning Disabilities Association of Canada: