TIP of the WEEK: Back to School PWS Style

August 15, 2014

Preparing for back to school brings the hope for new beginnings, the chance for new opportunities, and for those who have children diagnosed with PWS, a lot of anxiety. Back to school doesn’t have to be stressful. A little pre-planning can ease the stress for both you and your child.

1. Back to school clothes. There is no way around buying new fall clothes but due to sensory processing issues new clothes can be intolerable for kids with PWS. Tags and stiff material can cause such discomfort that learning and following the rules can become a near impossible task. Used clothing or hand me downs can take some of the discomfort away because the material is softer. If you need to buy new clothes,  send them through the washer with fabric softener many, many times before introducing them to your child. They are not being picky or difficult- new clothes can feel like needles on the skin to a child with sensory challenges. Some children with PWS can only tolerate sweat pants or running pants. Unfortunately many schools have dress codes banning sweat pants. If your school has a policy against clothing that your child needs to wear in order to feel comfortable be sure to include this in their IEP. Exceptions will almost always be made in the interest of academic achievement.

2. Settling into a new environment. Ask if you can take your child to their new classroom before school opens to give them a chance to become familiar with their new environment. Ask for pictures of their new teacher and if possible, of their classmates. Anything that you can do to avoid surprises will help your child to adjust more easily. Start waking them up at the time they will need to wake up when school begins at least 2 weeks prior to school starting. The same goes for bedtimes. When possible always ease your child in to a new routine rather than change it suddenly.

3. Paperwork. Ask to review the paperwork that your new teacher will be reading about your child. This will give you an opportunity to dispute any information that may have been written out of ignorance of the syndrome.

4. 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.

5. 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.

Although the start of a new year can be stressful it is also a time of promise and excitement because the truth is, we don’t know just how far your child will go, what he or she will learn or accomplish and there is no greater feeling than that.

Patrice Carroll
Manager PWS Services

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