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Ways to Set Your Child up for Success

Here’s how you can get the information that you need to make this coming school year successful...

Here are 4 ways to set your child up for success this school year

By Anna Stewart

Setting your child up for success includes identifying what sets him, like unexpected transitions, sensory triggers, work he perceives as being too hard (or sometimes too easy), desk mates that kick chairs, and needing to move around but not being allowed to do so. It’s also important to note what keeps your child on track. This might include knowing the environment and people he interacts with daily, and making sure the school understands your child’s diagnosis and/or learning needs.

Here’s how you can get the information that you need to make this coming school year successful:

Collect Data. School teams gather data, and you should as well. You can take notes on your child and then share the data with the teachers. Write down your child’s triggers and what strategies work for her. Include time of day, current activity, preceding activity, and when she ate, exercised and slept. During the school year, add information about how homework goes. You may need this data to negotiate fewer (or alternative) homework assignments. Having specific and measurable data gives parents and students more control, because they have the facts of the situation, and aren’t just relying on emotions.

tk-school2Collect More Data. Besides what is happening in your child’s day, include the time it happens, frequency, intensity and duration of behaviours or concerns. It’s one thing to say, “He melts down all the time,” but it’s a whole lot more informative to say, “He cries for two minutes when asked to get ready to leave the house in the morning.” Expect school teams to also gather this data: it’s part of a functional behaviour analysis that is used to create baselines of behaviour so that replacement behaviours can be taught.

Interpret Data. If your son or daughter is old enough, share some of this data with them. Teens can actually collect data on themselves, which is proving to be a powerful tool for changing behaviours. Talk about what behavior they think most interferes with their school and home lives and come up with a short list of alternatives. For instance, if they can’t get up for school and are chronically late and chronically grumpy (and you have data to show that it is three out of five days a week) you could discuss whether it makes more sense to go to bed earlier (something easier said than done for teens) or take a 15 minute nap after school using an alarm. If missing a meal worsens their moods, they might drink a protein shake instead of skipping breakfast, for example. The key is that they have to decide the option, and then you can support that choice if you agree with it.

Develop Goals. Children are usually not able to take the long-term view and see that learning their multiplication tables will help them achieve their future goals. It falls on us as parents to persistently and consistently link the school day to their future. I know I have misused this link in the past and used it to shame my son, and say things like, “You won’t ever make it if you can’t do your homework.” Not only is this not true, it’s not helpful. Instead, I have learned to say things like, “Wow, I’m really impressed with the persistence you showed in completing your science project. That’s a skill every adult should have.”

Excerpted from “How to Prepare Your Child with Special Needs for the Back to School Transition” by Anna Stewart on

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