Stress-Free School Year Start Checklist

This list is excerpted from ADDitude Magazine’s Blog.

August is upon us and that means the countdown to the first day of school has started. For some this brings excitement and anticipation while for others it can be great cause of stress and anxiety. Here are ten steps to consider taking BEFORE school starts to relieve some of that stress.


Does your child’s IEP or 504 Plan reflect your child’s current academic needs? Are the accommodations appropriate? Be sure to look at the current academic goals and objectives to determine progress made or areas of concern. Consider having a team meeting prior to the start of school to set your child up for success.

Requesting a walk through of the school and classroom set up prior to the first day of school can reduce some anxiety and stress. A child with ADHD or learning differences will feel more comfortable knowing the lay out of the campus, where the bathrooms, office, gym and nurse’s office are located. Even meeting the teacher one on one and previewing the class organization system can calm nerves.

Determine organizational systems together to get your child’s buy-in. Come up with the most challenging area and start there to reduce anxiety over random papers, forgotten assignments, and an unknown school schedule. The use of file folders, pocket folders, pencil cases and planners are key. Consider an Executive Skills Coach if these areas persist or become a major challenge.

Set up an area at home with school related items and make that the permanent home for backpacks, books, homework, sports bags and anything else your child needs for school. Organize the area with shelves, hooks and baskets, and use a whiteboard for checklists for the day.

Anticipate last minute supply needs and stock up. There will come a time when your child tells you last minute that they need a poster board for their presentation, or clay to make a model of a Mission. Anticipate the projects your child will be assigned by reading the teacher’s website from last year, or speaking with the teacher and have these supplies on-hand.

Physical exercise is key to increasing focus, balancing energy levels and keeping us healthy. Schedule after-school activities that your child enjoys as well as ones that they will receive the most benefit. Consider your child’s strengths and needs and plan accordingly. For example, if your child needs help focusing perhaps a martial arts class, or chess club would be appropriate.

If you know your child would benefit from guidance in a particular area or needs help with organization and planning, then start interviewing tutors now. The relationship your child will have with their tutor can be vital to school success so you don’t want to be scrambling looking for one mid-year especially when schedules fill up quickly. Things to look for are skill set, personality, availability throughout the year, flexibility, etc.

Create a calendar for long-term projects, studying times, social activities, and after-school activities. It is important for student’s to see the month ahead and be able to prepare for what’s coming next. This will give your child a sense of control over their lives when they are able to have input on their schedule.

Revisit whether the current medication is appropriate going forward by considering the demands of the coming school year on your child and discussing with your child’s doctor. Also, consider life changes for your child, puberty and adolescence can change the way medications work. Starting the conversation with your doctor early can prepare you and reduce sudden stress.

Set academic goals and plans for reaching them.  Be specific and be open and honest with your child about their strengths and challenges. Learning differences are not something to be embarrassed about because there are ways to accommodate and overcome them. Let your child tell you what they think about their learning style. Ask appropriate questions, like “what do you want to learn, what do you want to avoid? Goals should be attainable and measurable. Establish check-in points throughout the year to discuss progress towards those goals. See this list of tips for how to do this.

Checklist Summary

  • Review Your Child’s Current IEP or 504 plan
  • Tour the School and Classroom
  • Create School Systems Together
  • Define a “School Spot” at Home
  • Stock Up on School Supplies
  • Plan After School Activities
  • Interview Tutors
  • Create a Calendar
  • Evaluate Medications
  • Establish Learning Goals

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