Every year this verse comes to mind, “The time has come,” the Walrus said, “to talk of many things”: of exploring schools, of supporting development and natural strengths – AND - of finding creative methods for dealing with learning challenges to better self-regulate, relate, communicate, think and create while fostering resilience, grit, and autonomy.
Reflect on your journey to Cheerful Helpers School and the people who guided you all those years ago – it was probably a somewhat chaotic + worrisome process, maybe well-meaning but untrained people trying to help, and by networking with parents and professionals you made a difficult informed decision (on behalf of your child and family) to join the Cheerful Helpers’ community. A wise decision and an opportunity to think with a team and other parents about how children learn in many ways, to put into perspective your child’s strengths and challenges and to protect their self-esteem while keeping intact their ingenuity, interests and interactions.
The world of preschool and kindergarten outlines a road map of each child’s unique development – emotional, social and cognitive (including learning to learn – executive function skills), behavioral (including the mediators temperament, nature vs. nurture and etc).
The grade school years are another critical phase of growth toward logical beings who are now able to reason, learn and control their impulses.
You’ve got this - you already possess the abilities needed to help your child. The key is knowing how to harness them:
• Continuing to build a warm, trusting relationship for good enough verbal and nonverbal communication, to tackle problem solving by discussing and negotiating differences and difficulties the child is experiencing (how was your school day and beyond) – this is a time to figure it out together, and then holding realistic boundaries/limit setting to provide guidance and remind your child they are safe.
• Putting together a collaborative team (teachers, doctors, therapists, neuropsychologist, etc.) willing to collect, exchange, and explain in clear concise language information about your child’s intellectual functioning, attention, learning abilities and memory, reasoning and problem solving, visual-spatial skills, and language and learning style (sometimes: mood, personality and behavior) into viewpoint to make The Next School
• Making time to learn about and visit recommended and researched special schools schools (nonpublic, public, private, progressive, charter, magnet). Observe and write down what you see in concrete terms, including general information about the classroom and playground: physical set-up, number of students and seating, distractions, teacher’s teaching style (e.g. lecture and white board, hands -on activities, mixed-media, etc.). Also to note: how does the teacher respond to behavior (acting-out, passive, withdrawn), do students seem to know what they are expected to do (need reminders)? Also: how many adults in the classroom - purpose, time spent teaching and / or supporting students, are the teacher directions clear and understandable, is there a lot of moving around and/or in and out of the classroom, anything make you feel uncomfortable. Are there safety rules? Make a plan to visit more than once. Which school / classroom felt like a good fit – which presented with the attributes in place you feel like your child needs to benefit from a general or special education program. Bring curiosity to the experience.
• Analyze and synthesize the above data – create a relationship-driven process for choosing The Next School.
• Understand and know that there isn’t a perfect school for anyone. Own that you might have to switch schools as your child grows, develops, and evolves. Don’t forget to breathe. Know that big or little goodbyes can be hard.
• Follow timelines for applying and enrolling, find a good enough match, find community resources with extracurricular activities to expand interests, finds ways to stay connected, and enjoy and marvel at these years of amazing inner growth.