Social Skill Savvy for the First Day of School – with Bonus “About Me” Template!

You may remember your childhood school “first days” as fun and exciting, with possibly a few nervous butterflies in the mix. The satisfaction of putting a crisp, clean stack of paper into a brightly colored Trapper-Keeper (did you know they’re back in style??) and sliding all the gel pens and freshly sharpened pencils into the little slots up front. Or…maybe you’re rolling your eyes and chuckling because you were the opposite! Wherever you fall on the spectrum of first-day-of-school emotions, the parent version of you wants the first day (and the entire school year) to be a positive experience for your kiddo who is blind or low vision. Luckily, there are a few different ways to stack the deck in their favor.

Savvy for You – Getting Started

This is the perfect time to start preparing your child who is blind or has low vision for what to expect on the first days and weeks on campus. Help them shape and polish some of their existing social skills, offering them a boost of confidence and know-how to carry with them into their new classroom.

You can even take it a step further and “teach” the teacher all the best ways to support and accommodate your student in the classroom. That’s a win-win for both the teacher and your child!

Savvy for Your Kiddo – Interacting with Peers and Other Adults

Here are a few ideas for topics to address now and in the coming weeks.

Making Introductions

Sharing basic personal details like middle names and birthdays can help your child blend in with their peers. Additionally, a brief one or two-sentence explanation of their diagnosis and its impact can satisfy their classmates’ curiosity. This approach addresses questions proactively without drawing undue attention to your child.

Engaging In Conversations

Talk about the differences in how to address teachers and other adults vs. speaking with their peers. Discussing and even role-playing when to raise their hand and various conversation topic ideas to help initiate a chat with a friend. Teaching non-verbal communication can be tricky but is oh-so-worth the time.

Manners / Etiquette

From a general “please” and “thank you” to chewing with lips closed during lunch and snack time, speaking quietly in the library, and ensuring stall or bathroom doors are closed after they enter – there is a lot of ground to cover here! Don’t stress; tackle one thing at a time and be patient.

These are just a few ideas for social skills to brush up on at any time of the year. To keep the good times rolling.

Savvy for the Teachers – Teaching a Child Who is Blind or Has Low Vision

There are various reasons the classroom teachers and/or special area teachers may not comb through your kiddo’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) as thoroughly as you might hope. They are in your child’s corner, though, and would likely appreciate any direction you offer. Who better to provide insight on your youngster than you? Here are a few ways you can help these crucial members of your child’s education team hone their skills for interacting with your kiddo.

  • Check in with your child’s classroom teacher and your TVI and/or O&M instructor to ensure all of the staff members are aware of the specific needs of your child. Ask the classroom teacher if you can email or communicate directly with special area teachers.
  • Creating a concise “About Me” document is an excellent approach to acquaint your child’s teacher with your kid. This one-page summary should highlight key aspects of your child’s identity. You can include their learning preferences, any classroom considerations, and specific IEP accommodations. Think of it as a brief yet informative guide to understanding and supporting your child effectively. Keep reading to find a template to get you started!

Bonus! “About Me” Template

Since you already have your hands full with all the school supply shopping, school clothes buying, social skill teaching, and general day-to-day activities happening around your house, I thought I’d help you out and offer a starting point.

Fill in the blanks on the form below with your child’s particulars, and print as many copies as you need!

  • Tailor the information sheets for your child’s teachers, especially for special subjects. For instance, inform the P.E. teacher about how bright sunlight creates glare problems for your child and suggest suitable accommodations. Conversely, Music or Art teachers might benefit more from details about preferred indoor lighting.
  • Enhance the “About Me” page with your child’s photo. It adds a personal touch, draws attention, and provides a visual cue alongside the information.
  • If you’re into crafting visually appealing documents, feel free to get creative with your sheet’s design. However, remember to keep it uncluttered. The main aim is to ensure the teacher can easily read and understand the information.

As you gear up for fall, buy all the fun supplies, and work on developing the social skill savvy for you, your kiddo, & their future teachers. Don’t forget to enjoy the last little bit of summer together – it’s a fun time!