Children with ADD, ADHD, autism, learning disabilities and other special needs often have difficulty with the social or academic aspects of school and they can be reluctant to return to the demands of the educational environment. Parents who build in support with routines established and maintained during the summer help their child feel safe and secure as they venture back to the world of school and friendships.

Begin the transition process early

At least a month in advance, show your child on the calendar when school will start. Include a little drawing of something that symbolizes fun to your child, such as a kickball or an artist’s palette—something that he connects with school.

Back plan from that date, writing into the calendar times to go shopping for clothes, school supplies, and a cool new book bag.

Also plan ahead for end of summer fun experiences such as a day at the beach or a barbeque with friends. Be sure your child knows these great events are coming up and looks forward to them. 

In fact, start this year by establishing a special celebratory event as an end-of-the-summer-custom that will ease your child’s transition back to school in the years to come!

Remind your child of some favorite fall activities such as football games, apple picking and Halloween, and connect the return to school with these favorite activities.

While you’re looking at the calendar, be sure to show your child times for relaxing and being with family and friends, such as weekends and holidays.

Children need routines to be at their best

We often relax bedtimes and other routines during the summer, but August is the perfect month to begin the gradual transition back to the structure of academic life.

Start now to put more structure into the schedule—don’t wait until the week before school resumes, or your child will have much greater difficulty getting into the flow.

Make bedtime a bit earlier each week, until your child is going to bed at the “school bedtime” by the third week of August—children’s bodies need to make the new bedtime a habit in order to adapt and be ready for learning.

Be sure to have structured academic time each day. This can be a couple of hours in the morning or in the afternoon, but it’s important to give your child the structure of learning. Making academic gains is often more difficult for our kids—they can’t afford to fall behind. For tips on fun ways to practice academic skills (at any time of year!) download free audio files from my website.

Be sure to discuss the structure that will be in place for homework time when school starts. Before school starts is a good time to talk with your child about the homework rules of the house. It’s best to develop these rules in collaboration with your child so you both feel they are fair. Discuss homework time as part of your child’s job as a student.

It is vital to find a few moments everyday to give each of your children undivided special attention. Treat yourself and your child to exclusive, one-on-one time together each day. Develop joint interests and pursue them passionately.

Children with special needs can be fearful and uncomfortable with transitions, making it important for parents to give special consideration and care to the back to school season! With careful attention to routines and advance planning, our kids can handle transitions with calm security.

Most ESL students thrive on social interaction.  Whatever you are teaching it is always wise to come up with activities that get people moving around the room. Getting students to work together to complete assignments that test their knowledge of the material being taught is important.  The following ESL activity can be utilized to practice the definitions of target ESL vocabulary and grammar.


To start off, type out about ten definitions or phrases that cover the key vocabulary being learned in your class.  Use a larger font so ESL students can see them easier.  Leave some space between each word and add a couple of extra words that have nothing to do with the sentence.  For example, if one of my sentences was “To get to the church you must turn right.”  I would write that sentence with a large font and extra space between the words. I would also include words like “straight” or “drive”.  These words are related to the topic, but they won’t fit in the sentence.  Once you have your ten written, print them and cut out each individual sentence.  Put a paper clip around the words for each sentence.  Now, put all of the sentences in an envelope.  In a standard sized class you’ll maybe want about ten envelopes like this. 



When class starts, split everyone into groups of fours or fives.  Pass out an envelope to each group.  Instruct the students to pull out one set of words at a time and to spread these out on the table for all to see.  The point of the activity is that all students will work together to put the words in order and to come up with a sentence that has meaning.  Make sure to inform the students that there are two extra words included in each pile.  When a group comes up with the correct answer they should raise their hands and you will proceed to check for accuracy.  If the sentences are formed correctly, one student then mixes up the words, stacks them up, places a paper clip back around the words and selects another set from the envelope.  As the ESL teacher, you will decide if the students got the sentence right.


Judging on your class and the classroom environment you may want to make this a competition.  The first group to get all ten sentences correct is victorious.  In my experience, this will really get your ESL students excited and thinking.  Even students who are not always super motivated, in terms of learning English in general, seem to perk up when they realize that this is a race.  You can come up with a prize for the winning team if you decide to make it a competition.  There is the option of doing one sentence at a time as a class.  If you choose this route, no group is allowed to continue to the next set of words until you have indicated that everyone has finished.  At this point the class can go over the correct answer and the meaning of the sentence one at a time.

This ESL activity works great for all age groups.  Provided that all students are actively working on completing the task, allow everyone to enjoy themselves.  The noise level will get a little high, but it will be worth it and everyone will have fun.

Andrew Lawton