Special needs

Why my daughter is finally ready for school this year

This is Syona’s very first back-to-school (sort of) and Anchel Krishna discusses why she thinks it will be a success.

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Syona is all grown up and ready for school. Photo: Anchel Krishna.

Follow along as Anchel Krishna shares her experiences as mother to Syona, an extraordinary toddler with cerebral palsy. 

Syona started — and stopped — nursery school last year. We didn’t go through the traditional September back-to-school period because her academic career only began in the late fall, and it lasted a total of six months (a long story that you can read about here and here).

Our last experience left us disappointed and Syona was turned off at the word “school” (and by “turned off” I mean that she would scream her face off anytime we even mentioned the word). After pulling her out of the program, she transitioned to a regular conductive education class with teachers who were willing to help Syona work on her independence and separation anxiety. It wasn’t a traditional nursery school, but the program served her well.

Read more: Anxiety disorders in children >

We had explored other options last spring and found another school that was a better fit. I think the teachers at the school are amazing and are used to working with kids that have various special needs. In addition to a typical curriculum, they are comfortable positioning Syona properly to help ensure her body is well supported throughout her time there.

Logistically, I think it’s a better fit, too. It’s shorter program, but takes place five days a week. Over the past year we’ve learned that Syona does great with a regular schedule, consistency and knowing what to expect from her day.

The other big thing is (I hope) that Syona is more ready for school now. She has a greater interest in other kids around her and doesn’t always automatically scream, yell and cry to be the centre of attention all the time (it still happens once in awhile, but she’s almost three so that is to be expected, right?). She’s slightly better regulated, understands consequences, gets that people don’t respond to crying or screaming in a positive way, receives regular, appropriate discipline and we often use a simple counting technique to help calm her down. When she doesn’t automatically tell us what’s wrong (if she is fussing or crying) we just need to remind her to use her words.

She’s also got a great sense of humour and is a really social kid. I am quite optimistic that this school will be a great fit for her. I know the transition may not be super smooth, but I do think she will adjust and we’ll have a more successful year than last year.

Next year, Syona will start junior kindergarten (seriously, I can’t believe that I’m typing those actual words). And while some parents may be digging out their sandwich cookie cutters and figuring out how to pack a Pinterest-worthy bento box, I expect that I will be working and planning to ensure Syona has the proper support in place for school and is set up to learn and succeed. I’m lucky because I interviewed a number of parents this year about back-to-school transitions for children with special needs for a work newsletter. They had amazing tips, resources and ideas about what we can do as parents. And like everything else that comes with raising a kid, and especially a kid with special needs, they will be there to help me along the way and support us as we stumble through the process and regroup. Not a bad lesson for Syona to learn, either.

Are any of your kids starting preschool this year? How do you prep your kids for back-to-school?