No Promises, Just Try

by Alex Tripp, Collaborator
I can remember getting ready for back-to-school myself, and all of the different feelings that would come in the days leading up… Who’s class will I be in? What will I wear? Who will I sit with? Will I know my way around?
After I graduated from college, I started a position as a Child and Youth Worker at a group home for youth with various forms of neurodiversity; including FASD, ASD and ADHD. When it came time for back-to-school for these kiddos, I would think about all of those questions that I used to have and how they were feeling all of those things, and then some…
For children with brain-based disabilities who may have a hard time with transitions, new environments, sensory sensitivities and emotional regulation - I imagined these worries felt even bigger to them, especially for those kiddos who were new to the home or starting at a brand new school.
One of the first things I would do to help the kids prepare would be to have a real, open and honest conversation! I would ask them how they were feeling, if they had any questions or concerns that came to mind about heading back to school. I would share with them some of the things that I felt when I was in their position, I wanted them to know that they were not alone in what they were feeling, that it’s normal and expected to be excited, nervous, scared.
Secondly, we always started to ease back into a morning and evening routine well in advance. This looked different for each kiddo depending on their needs. This might mean going to bed earlier for one kid, practicing making lunches and snacks for another, or walking the route to school a couple times a week to get adjusted. The earlier we started these things, the more likely the kids were to succeed in these areas, and the more time we had to figure out if our routines needed any tweaking.
For most of the children, accommodations were HUGE. Whether it was noise-cancelling headphones in the classroom, access to electronic learning devices, reduced in-class time, etc., it was important that we figured out what was needed as early as possible so we could communicate those needs with the school and ensure everything was in place and ready to go.
Back to school is an exciting time of the year, but it also brings up a lot of anxieties around the unknowns. Let your kids know that they are heard, their feelings are valid, and that it’s okay if things don’t go perfectly or if they need some extra help with this transition… We don’t want our kids to be afraid to make mistakes - making mistakes is what helps us grow! I worked with one kiddo who would often blame themselves after a rough day. I came up with a saying that I still use to this day, even for myself. It’s simple, and it’s short, but I think it serves as a great reminder that all we can do, is our best… “No promises, just try”.

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