First Day The New School History. We recently moved and my daughter is anxious about starting Fifth Grade in a new school. She has an anxiety disorder and an IEP. We’ve kept her involved in the IEP process and she’s also concerned that her new teacher won’t know about her accommodations. Is there anything we can do to prepare the teacher?”
A recent move is tough for any child, but particularly one with any kind of anxiety/behavioral disorder or a learning disability. I’m sure you’ve already talked to your daughter and prepared her for being in a new building, meeting new friends, and having new teachers. Taking her on a tour of the building and meeting the teacher before the first day might be helpful. If this is impossible, try to schedule a meeting with the teacher within the first two weeks of school. This is a good idea whether or not your child has special needs. You child’s teacher might notice indicators of stress that you might not catch at home, giving you the ability to talk to your child and possibly avoid an issue from becoming more serious.
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Bring a copy of you child’s IEP to the meeting. Though your daughter’s teacher already has a copy, it’s still a good idea to have one with you. Some teacher may have as many as 10 students in a class with an IEP, and each one is about 15 pages long. That’s a lot of reading for teachers at the beginning of the year. Highlight anything specific you want the teacher to know and any accommodations that are non-negotiable or unclear. For example, some IEPs indicated that a student be given “preferential seating”, which usually means that a child should sit towards the front, but a student with an anxiety disorder might be more comfortable in the back or the middle because a front-row seat puts them in the spotlight.
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Discuss the times of the day when your daughter is most anxious so that the teacher can remember to be more reassuring at these times. How does she handle transitions between classrooms? Should she sit at a cafeteria table closer to the door? Does a particular subject (like math or reading) seem to make her more nervous than others? Also, talk to the teacher about your daughter’s strengths so that she can build trust by setting her up to succeed. Does she play an instrument or excel at a sport? Maybe the teacher can sit her close to students that share the same interests so that she’s not as worried about finding new friends.
Most importantly, keep the lines of communication between home and school open. Check in with the teacher as often as you feel is necessary, and give the teacher accurate contact numbers so that he or she can call you if there seems to be a problem. Good luck this year, and please let me know how it’s going!