The Best Back To School Checklist for Special Needs Kids

Kids on schoolbus smiling because their parents prepared them with this back to school checklist.

The summer is over, and the school bus is approaching. Are you ready? Is your child ready? If not, this back to school checklist will help! 

For many special needs kids, the excitement of a new school year has led to some added stress for parents.

Because in many cases, this time of year brings on…

  • An array of behaviors
  • Anxiety
  • Household chaos

Nevertheless, we trudge forward as the day FINALLY arrives!

As the first day of the new school year approaches, you may be worrying about your child: 

  • Needing to ride the bus to school
  • Transitioning between grades
  • Having new teachers 
  • New IEP team
  • Making new friends

Your Back to School Checklist

As your child transitions back to school, here are some things to help them prepare for school.

 #1 Transportation

As a parent, it’s super important to ensure that you and your family are all on the same page regarding transportation. 

  • Will your child ride the school bus? Where is the bus stop? Where and when do they need to catch the bus? 
  • Will you or your spouse be driving your child to and from school? 
  • Do you have a backup plan for when either of these falls through? 

It is essential to ensure that you tell the school about your child’s transportation needs before the beginning of the school year. 

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It is also crucial to go over the plans with your child. If your child is riding the bus for the first time, you will want to have a few practice runs before school starts. 

Ensure your child knows when and where to be for drop off and pickup. 


#2 Back to School Supplies

Many local communities often share supply lists for schools. These lists often inform you what supplies to purchase based on the grade level or classroom teacher. 

You can usually find school supply lists at local retailers in your area too. I’ve even seen them in shopping apps like Walmart and my local grocery store. 

You can also ask the teacher for any additional supplies your child will need to start the year. 


#3 Getting Rid Of Clutter

Clutter is the number one factor in morning and evening chaos in most homes. 

Who can honestly say they have yet to spend ten minutes before the bus arrives trying to find the permission slip for that day’s field trip? 

After digging through… 

  • Stacks on the counter
  • The kitchen table
  • Inside backpacks 

Then, find the paper in your child’s room. 

Homeschoolers change this scenario to searching through similar stacks for that day’s co-op lesson plan.

This is the year where you take charge.! 

Decluttering can take as little as 15 minutes a day. Pick a room and eliminate ten items you don’t: USE or LOVE

These items go to the trash, a donation box, or to the part of the house where they should live. If you and your kids do this from now until the start of school, you’ll find yourself in a more open, functional home.

As you declutter, take note of hot spots and how best to handle them.

  • Would a hanging folder organizer at the kitchen counter help you keep important papers where you need them?
  • Would it help to have a basket in each room to place things to be relocated to their proper rooms each night?

Refrain from getting hung up on making your decluttering efforts Pinterest-worthy. If you’re so inspired, you can do that when the clutter is gone. 

Instead, focus on building this quick decluttering routine in everyone’s day. You want clean, clear surfaces and a specific home for everything in your house. 

Don’t rush the process – let it evolve. Come fall; you’ll be amazed.


#4 Organizational System

Many families often try different ways to keep things organized during the week for their families. 

Here are great ideas I have heard to help get organized for back to school: 

  • Use a system to plan out outfits for the week. Many children enjoy picking out their clothes for themselves. This is a great way to have your child become more independent by preparing for each week. Check out these ideas for organizing kids’ clothes.
  •  Your family can use a calendar to organize your schedule. You can set one up in the entryway or common area in the house to look at before heading out the door. 
  • Having a quiet place for your child to study and do homework at home is vital. 
  • Having one specific spot to keep backpacks and school papers will help the family get out the door quicker in the morning. Try one of these backpack storage ideas 


#5 Create Goals For The Upcoming Year

Take a few afternoons over the summer to hold family meetings. Put together a family plan for the upcoming school year.

Have everyone set three goals –

  • School-related goal
  • Personal goal
  • Family-related goal


Additional Tips on Goal Setting

  • Post them in a place where you will all see your goals regularly.
  • Putting your goals into concrete sentences makes them “feel real.”
  • Allowing your children to watch you and your partner set goals helps them understand that learning is a lifelong challenge. 
  • Doing this before the school year lowers the pressure and gives you time to start on your goals before the hectic fall routine begins again. 


#6 Take Charge Of Family Meals Now

Feeding a family day-in-day-out is a challenge. When school is in full swing, you have all of these things pushing eat dinners at home together further down your list: 

  • School
  • Work
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Therapist appointments

With meal planning, shopping, and the actual cooking, it’s so easy to hit a drive-through after a long day. 

If your grocery shopping patterns are haphazard, ordering pizza can quickly become a fallback meal. 

If your children attend a traditional school, it’s easier to fill up their lunch account once a month than it is to pack lunches. Or is it?

Kids who eat healthy, balanced meals do better in school. Families who take the time to figure out how to shop and cook together have more disposable income to spend on other things. 

It’s not easy, but taking charge of your meals is one of the easiest ways to help your child excel in and out of the classroom.

There are many ways to get organized. It’s a matter of finding what works for you. 

Try some of these family meal tips: 

  • Once-a-month freezer cooking. 
  • Put a 30-day moratorium on junk food and take-out meals. 
  • Put your foot down and stop cooking like you’re running a diner.
  • Include something in each meal that everyone likes. If your child hates meatloaf, he can fill up on potatoes and green beans. Don’t get up and make chicken nuggets. 

Read our article: Bringing Family Dinnertime Back for tons more ideas! 


#7 Back to School Preparation for Changes

Change is hard for kids. As a parent, you should talk with your child about how the school may look different from last year. 

  • Schedule changes
  • New teachers
  • Recess eliminated
  • New rules 
  • Sports eliminated 
  • Structure of the classroom 

Check out our article, How to Help Your Special Needs Child Adjust to Change, to help them adjust. 


#8 Consistent Routines 

All children benefit from consistency in their lives. From a bedtime routineeating dinner together to weekly game night consistency most often translates to comfort for children. 

Regarding academics, consistency in your approach can significantly impact your child’s success. 

Something as simple as scheduled daily homework time can begin to make a shift toward increased grades and confidence.


#9 Prepare Academically Before School Starts Back

Yes, it is important to give your child breaks, but you also want to prevent academic regression over long breaks. 

For most children, this means adding fun and exciting learning into their summer routine. See this article for ideas; The Ultimate Guide to Summer Learning Activities (Your Child Will Love).

If your child struggled academically the previous school year, Special Needs Tutoring can help make a significant impact going into next year! 

Working one-on-one with a special education tutor has proven to help your child catch up quickly and even surpass their current grade level!

In short, by simply thinking about and preparing for what’s to come…the fall transition will be MUCH easier!

#10 Meeting the New Teachers and Special Education Team

As the school year starts, all IEP team members need to meet and begin the work of relationship building.

As a parent, it’s vital to advocate for your child and closely partner with the school. You are a critical team member that can help build a positive relationship.

It is always beneficial to meet the new teachers working with your child. 

Next, it may be helpful and in your child’s best interest to have the IEP team come together to;

If your child has been attending outside services such as Special Needs Tutoring, relay any progress to the IEP team.


#11 Be Increasingly Active

At the first sign of a downturn (or struggle)… take action

Jump in and help your child get through their homework. If you need help understanding their lessons, find a special education tutor who can help. 

Whatever the struggle is, finding it early and taking immediate action can help children remain on track toward success!

#12 Positive Attitudes Create Positive Outcomes

It is always helpful to remain positive no matter the situation!

You know your child the best, so always lead with kindness and do what is right on behalf of your child! 

Remember, a school team is just that; therefore, everyone needs to work together to help your child succeed, meet their goals, and be an excellent member of society!


#13 Accountability

It’s important to hold your children accountable for completing their school work. Being on top of what’s due and when can make a big difference. 

Try communicating regularly (even through email) with your child’s teacher. You’ll better understand how your child is doing AND the steps you can take to ensure they stay on track.

 Action creates impact. So long as you don’t sit idly by during the early warning signs of struggle… your child will have a much better chance of academic success. 

Remember, you got this! The vast online information, special education resources, and other professional guidance are all a simple click away.


Revisit This Back-to-School Checklist After Christmas Break

For most children, the end of the Christmas break not only means tearing down the Christmas tree and boxing up the lights… 

January also means time for round 2 of the school year

Time yet again to wake up early and brace for the morning cold on your way to the bus stop (if you live where it’s cold). Trudge through snow waist-high and uphill in both directions.

If your child struggled during the first semester, there’s good news! When most children walk into the building on the first day of school after winter break, they are back at zero! 

Everyone’s grades are the same… a true fresh start

This euphoric feeling will likely change going into day 2 (when something is due).

Here’s the thing… that euphoric feeling of success doesn’t have to end.

Revisit this back to school checklist and make sure you are all prepared. 


Additional Back to School Resources

Back-to-school time can be stressful for parents of special needs children, but you don’t have to do it alone. Use this checklist as a starting point, and feel free to add or subtract items based on your family’s specific situation. 

What else would help make back-to-school easier? Feel free to share in the comments below. 

Check out these additional resources to help your child get off to a fantastic start this next school year! 



If you liked this article, please share it on Pinterest and Facebook. Join our Special Ed Parenting Facebook Community to connect with other parents of special needs children. 


Kids on schoolbus smiling because their parents prepared them with this back to school checklist.
The summer is over. Prepare your family with the Best Back To School Checklist For Special Needs Kids today!

Picture of Shannah Holt

Shannah Holt

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