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3 Steps for Simplifying a Special Education School Day

I’ll never forget how exhausted I was after shadowing a 3rd grader throughout his school day. 

I was brought into the school as an independent IEP expert to help the school team and parents work together through some sticky conversations. 

One of those conversations was inclusion.  The way the school was implementing the required inclusion minutes in the IEP wasn’t working. The school team recommended reducing inclusion minutes and the parents were not happy (to put it mildly). 

Instead of trying to help the team work together based on what everyone was telling me, I decided to get more information on my own. This meant spending an entire day following the child around and let’s just say it was not the day that I expected. I moved from room to room to room over and over throughout the day. 

Before we even got to lunchtime, I knew exactly where I wanted to start in helping the parents and teachers work together… we needed to simplify the child’s school day.

By the end of our collaboration session, the child had MORE inclusion minutes, not less. 

In the weeks that followed the child was not trying to escape rooms, but joyfully followed his schedule. 

If you think your child or student might have too many transitions throughout the day and it’s causing exhaustion, meltdowns, work refusal, or missed classroom activities, try these 3 steps for simplifying a child’s school day:

First, let's grab our journals and start mapping out the child's day. We must note every transition, every change in activities (even if in the same room), and even every mandatory bathroom break. 

Tip: This is a fantastic activity to do together with the child to get their input on what their day is like and where they might be struggling. We can use their input to develop a more manageable schedule.

Next up, let's brainstorm ways we can combine activities to reduce the number of transitions the child has to make throughout the day. We must think creatively and innovatively! Maybe a therapy session can be held during recess, or we can integrate special education instruction with the general education curriculum. 

The possibilities are limitless, and who knows, we might come up with a solution that becomes the highlight of the child's day.

Lastly, let's tailor the child's schedule to their individual needs and preferences. This is where the real magic happens! We must consider the child’s likes, dislikes, and learning styles to make their schedule work for them, not against them.

If a child has sensory challenges, we can find ways to incorporate sensory breaks throughout the day. Perhaps they need a quiet space to retreat to when things get overwhelming, or maybe they love to dance and need a movement break. 

The key is to customize their schedule and ensure that it meets their unique needs.

Taking those 3 steps can create a more supportive and engaging learning environment for the child. So let's grab our journals, think outside the box, and simplify that schedule!

Next Step: Download Your Own IEP Checklist Here

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