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Getting ready for school is fun and exciting! It also involves lots of coordination and prep (IEPs, new teachers, etc) and of course, new supplies. Here are some of my favorite school essentials for special needs children.
Backpacks are a little tricky with my autistic son. In preschool he became attached to a hand me down Thomas the tank backpack. The problem was it was a plastic, “cheap” backpack that already had a couple years of wear and tear on it. So pretty quickly it started to fall apart. Of course he was attached to it and having autism he struggles with change so we tried to sew it, tape it and do anything else to keep it functional. It made it through the year and he agreed to find a new one for the next school year but I learned my lesson if using cheap backpacks. We found him an awesome Pottery Barn Kids backpack with a panda (his favorite) on it. While it was expensive after two years it has shown very little wear and tear and I highly recommend getting a Pottery Barn or similar higher end backpack especially if your child struggles with change.
Basic School Supplies
Basic school supplies are, of course, dictated by what the school and teachers want. At my son’s school you have the option to buy a pack with most of the school supplies from the PTO (which I do because it’s readier) or purchase on your own from target, amazon, etc. One supply which was not included in the schoolpack were headphones. Because my son has some sensory sensitivities these were a little tricky. We decided to try one of the top rated amazon headphone, the LilGadgets Connect+ Premium Volume Limited Wired Headphones with SharePort for Children and just double checked we could return it as necessary. But, they worked! He tolerated them and they were rated highly for not breaking which made me happy. We’re a year into using them and no complaints by my son or me!
Every parent needs labels for their kids stuff (otherwise half of it would be gone, right?) What I particularly love about the Mabel’s Labels is that they have a wide array of icons that you can add. These are perfect for kids who can’t recognize their name but can instead find their stuff by using an icon. Having panda bear pictures on our labels really helps my son recognize his own belongings.
Fidgets and Chewies
Back to school means making sure you have adequate fidgets if they are a tool help your child. There are innumerable types of fidgets including my favorite (for myself and my son) spinners!I even found a panda spinner this year for my oldest!
Chewies are also an important tool for many children with special needs. I like any chewy that is on a necklace or bracelet (because it lasts a little bit longer). My son loves all things LEGO including a fun block chewy.
Lap Pads and Animals
Weighted lap pads are another item that may or may not be provided by the school but are often a back to school essential for special needs children. Weighted lap pads provide sensory input that can calm children and help them focus. Weighted lap animals are a fun alternative for younger children. My son has a “lap cat” that he adores. He no longer needs it at school but still likes it at home.
While most public schools provide any alternative seating required (and in the IEP accommodations) you will need to provide your child’s own at many private schools. At Ross’ first preschool our OT decided a cube chair would be beneficial. The school could not provide ont so we got him a cube chair from amazon and it was very helpful in his being able to sit and focus during stories and other group time.
Not every child needs an ID bracelet or tag but for many children having one for school, the bus or field trips can provide added safety and peace of mind. Mabel’s Labels recently came out with new silicone bracelets that have received great reviews for their comfort and staying power.
That’s my rundown of the back to school essentials for special needs children. What else would you add to the list? Also make sure to check out my article on what NOT to say to the parent of a child with Autism and also my best toys for fine motor skill development.