5 Tips to Make Back-to-School Better

Jamie Sumner
Special needs mom and author
08/21/23  4:10 PM PST
5 tips to make back to school better

Fall is coming. Can you feel it? Are the birds chirping a little later in the morning? Is the air frizzing your hair just a little less? Are pools emptying out? Does your Target look like it’s throwing a Halloween-themed birthday party? With all the joys of cooler weather and seasonal décor also comes the return of school. Whether your child loathes school or loves it, it’s still a transition. And if your kiddo has special needs like mine, then it takes a bit more strategy to make sure it goes smoothly. Here are a few tips that I’ve honed over the years to help my son ease back into that routine.


  1. Go to Open House

I know. It’s crowded and chaotic and often before the end of a normal working day for parents. We skipped it one year for all these reasons, but that was also the year it felt like we had whiplash for the first month back. Open House is a chance for your child to meet their teacher and aide and therapist. Even if it is a five-minute hello, it puts a face to a name and can give both the team and your child a feel for each other. This is also a great chance to practice navigating the hallways again as well, especially if your child uses assistive mobility devices. We always do a roll through to get the hang of things again. So yes, Open House is a lot, but it is also beneficial if you can muster the energy and get time off. Also, there are no points lost for bailing early. We are in and out in under half an hour.


  1. Think through your communication checklist

Because my son is mostly nonverbal, I rely heavily on his team to tell me how the day went. Inevitably, people leave and new people come to replace the old and so I always make sure to have an email chain that lists exactly what I need to know when he comes home. It doesn’t have to be (and probably shouldn’t be) exhaustive. I like to see notes on his disposition (was he tired/happy/engaged), how he ate, when he was changed (since he needs assistance with toileting), and when he used his speaking device. It is much easier to get everyone on board if you start this process on day one.


  1. Practice the school day at home

Usually a week before school starts, I get the schedule for his day (picked up at Open House – see, it is worth it!). That’s when we start practicing. If he has to be out the door at 7:35 in the morning, I get him up and dressed and breakfasted by 7:15. Same with lunch. If it will be at 11:30, then that’s what it will be at home until the year gets underway. And because this has been the summer of pajamas all day every day, I make a point to dress him in “real clothes” and put his leg braces on as well. Implement the small changes now so that first day can feel a little less new.


  1. Lock down transportation

This past June our summer school bus showed up thirty minutes late with a driver who did not know how to operate the wheelchair lift and did not deliver my son to the school until an hour after the educational day was supposed to have begun. This was…not okay. If you’re not taking your child to school, be as persistent as you need to be to make sure the proper accommodations and the proper training is provided so everyone gets safely from Point A to Point B.


  1. Shop Tax Free

I saved the fun one for last. Everybody loves a bargain and tax free weekend beats Amazon Prime day handily for best deals on all things back-to-school. I always take my kiddo to pick out a new backpack, folders, pencils, and first day clothes so that he has a few special items to get excited about that he selected himself. Re-entering the structured academic day can feel like you are losing the freedom and independence you gained over the summer. Choosing what you look like and what you learn with can give a little of that feeling back. Plus, who doesn’t love a new backpack?


It may not be pumpkin spice weather quite yet where you are, but school is just around the corner. I hope these bits of advice can help make it easier on you and your child. Here’s to a great year!


child with special needs
Jamie Sumner is a special needs mom and author.

Author of the middle-grade novels:















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