Going Back to School TIPS Guide
Every Friday Patrice Carroll, Latham Centers’ Manager of PWS Services with world-renowned recognition, posts tips and suggestions to help you take care of your child with Prader-Willi Syndrome. Patrice has years of experience working with individuals diagnosed with PWS, both on and off a school campus. As school is just around the corner we’ve put together a small collection of her School Related Tips. (pictured above: student in Latham classroom)
1. Back to School PWS Style: Any transition can be difficult but the transition from summer to school is one of the biggest of the year. Changing schools, teachers, and the introduction of new peers and new social expectations can take a toll on a child with PWS and, in turn, the whole family. Here are some ways to help make the transition a little less challenging. When properly prepared for, back to school can be a fun and exciting time.
Meet the school personnel ahead of time. Teachers, coaches, administrators- anyone your child will be in frequent contact with. Most schools will allow for this opportunity.
Check out the environment. Play on the playground or for older kids go to the library, outdoor “hang out” spots and let them explore before the introduction of social expectations is upon them.
Ask. Find out what will be taught this year and start discussing it at home.
Communicate. Use communication journals or ask for a daily email regarding your child’s day. Never solely rely on your child’s account of how their day went. It will also ease your child’s anxiety if he or she knows that everyone is on the same page and are communicating daily.
Calendars. Make a calendar or a visual countdown to the first day of school.
If school hasn’t yet started, start the school routine now. Wake up and have lunch at the times that they will be doing so when school starts.
Training videos. Request that everyone working with your child watch one of the training videos for educators working with PWS. Supply them if necessary. The training videos that are available are thorough and extremely helpful and will give your new team more confidence when working with your child.
Keep is positive. There will be bumps, expect them. Do not criticize teachers or caregivers in front of your child. This makes forming a relationship next to impossible. If your child does not believe that you have faith in their school there is no hope for success.
Be mindful of new school clothes. If your child has a sensory processing issue then new clothes and new shoes can be brutal for them. Wash new clothes several times before introducing them and when possible buy used, already broken in shoes. Your child likely already has attention challenges. Being uncomfortable will just add to that.
2. Attention Span: People with PWS can have difficulty paying attention and/ or maintaining focus for more than a few minutes. Here are some ways to improve your child’s attention span.
Eliminate distractions. It is often difficult for our kids to ignore distractions. When practicing focus techniques be sure to keep external distractions to a minimum.
Make eye contact. When you are asking them to do something have them make eye contact and keep the instruction simple. Slowly add steps. Paying attention is an essential skill in school and later in life. It will be difficult to teach this if it is not started early.
Use what they like. Our kids can often focus for long periods of time when it is something that they enjoy. Use that. Focus is something that needs to be practiced every day. Make “focus time” a daily activity.
Start small. Be sure that activities are timed and not open ended. Schedule activities for short amounts of time and slowly increase the time allotted.
Practice meditation. Mindfulness and meditation are excellent tools for improving attention span. People with PWS are surprisingly very good at these activities and they have many benefits including increasing focus.
3. Managing Stress: Stress and anxiety can be debilitating for people with PWS, and a new school year can often be a catalyst for these feelings. Helping them to reduce feelings of fear and stress will allow for greater success in all areas of their life. Here are some tips for helping your child reduce and manage that anxiety.
Teach coping skills. Deep breathing, visualizations and muscle relaxation are all excellent tools to decrease anxiety.
Praise bravery. Every time your child does something that previously made them anxious or scared, reinforce their bravery.
Point out their triggers. The more your child understands what causes their anxiety the more successful they will be in managing their own feelings and actions.
Stick to a routine. The more predictable the better. Unknowns are very difficult for our kids so limit them as much as possible.
Check yourself. If you are stressed or anxious your child will sense that and respond accordingly.