Social Skill Savvy for the First Day of School – with Bonus “About Me” Template!

You may remember your childhood school “first days” as fun and exciting, with possibly a few nervous butterflies in the mix. The satisfaction of putting a crisp, clean stack of paper into a brightly colored Trapper-Keeper (did you know they’re back in style??) and sliding all the gel pens and freshly sharpened pencils into the little slots up front. Or…maybe you’re rolling your eyes and chuckling because you were the opposite! Wherever you fall on the spectrum of first-day-of-school emotions, the parent version of you wants the first day (and the entire school year) to be a positive experience for your kiddo who is blind or low vision. Luckily, there are a few different ways to stack the deck in their favor.

Savvy for You – Getting Started

This is the perfect time to start preparing your child who is blind or has low vision for what to expect on the first days and weeks on campus. Help them shape and polish some of their existing social skills, offering them a boost of confidence and know-how to carry with them into their new classroom.

You can even take it a step further and “teach” the teacher all the best ways to support and accommodate your student in the classroom. That’s a win-win for both the teacher and your child!

Savvy for Your Kiddo – Interacting with Peers and Other Adults

Here are a few ideas for topics to address now and in the coming weeks that will likely help smooth the transition back into the classroom after a summer away.

Making Introductions

Knowledge of personal information (middle names and birthdays are common stats discussed in the elementary crowd) and a simple one or two-sentence explanation of their diagnosis and how it affects them can offer a proactive answer to the curious little minds of their classmates without attracting unwanted attention to your child.

Engaging In Conversations

Talk about the differences in how to address teachers and other adults vs. speaking with their peers. Discussing and even role-playing when to raise their hand and various conversation topic ideas to help initiate a chat with a friend. Teaching non-verbal communication can be tricky but is oh-so-worth the time.

Manners / Etiquette

From a general “please” and “thank you” to chewing with lips closed during lunch and snack time, speaking quietly in the library, and ensuring stall or bathroom doors are closed after they enter – there is a lot of ground to cover here! Don’t stress; tackle one thing at a time and be patient.

These are just a few ideas for social skills to brush up on at any time of the year. To keep the good times rolling.

Savvy for the Teachers – Teaching a Child Who is Blind or Has Low Vision

There are various reasons the classroom teachers and/or special area teachers may not comb through your kiddo’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) as thoroughly as you might hope. They are in your child’s corner, though, and would likely appreciate any direction you offer. Who better to provide insight on your youngster than you? Here are a few ways you can help these crucial members of your child’s education team hone their skills for interacting with your kiddo.

  • Check in with your child’s classroom teacher and your TVI and/or O&M instructor to ensure all of the staff members are aware of the specific needs of your child. Ask the classroom teacher if you can email or communicate directly with special area teachers.
  • A great way to bring your child’s teacher up to speed and prepare them to serve your kiddo best is to create a one-page “About Me” document on the important points of who your child is, their learning style(s), considerations they may need in the classroom and specific IEP accommodations…sort of like Cliff’s Notes on your child’s life. Keep reading to find a template to get you started!

Bonus! “About Me” Template

Since I know you already have your hands full with all the school supply shopping, school clothes buying, social skill teaching, and general day-to-day activities happening around your house, I thought I’d help you out and offer a starting point.

Fill in the blanks on the form below with your child’s particulars, and print as many copies as you need!

  • Consider slightly modifying the sheets that you give to different types of teachers, especially concerning special areas. For example, you may want to explain to the P.E. teacher how bright, sunny days cause glare issues for your child, and offer suggestions on how they could best accommodate in that situation. However, Music or Art teachers might not need that particular bullet point. Indoor lighting needs and preferences would be more strategic to include on their one-page sheet.
  • Add a picture of your little darling to the “About Me” page to add a personal touch, attract attention, and give a visual reference as they review the information you’ve shared.
  • Pinterest-y parents, feel free to make your sheet as “extra” as you’d like, but be careful that your page doesn’t get too crowded – the goal is ease of reading for the teacher!

As you gear up for fall, buy all the fun supplies, and work on developing the social skill savvy for you, your kiddo, & their future teachers, don’t forget to enjoy the last little bit of summer together – it’s a fun time!

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