Chicago mom weighs best back-to-school approach for sensory-overloaded kindergartener

This back-to-school thing in a new place is getting pretty real for my girls. Yesterday, we attended an Open House at their new school to learn the names of their teachers, their classmates and their bus routes.

I know that my third grader will be fine. She is used to school and the dynamics and routines of how things work. Even in a new place with faces and classrooms that she is unfamiliar with, I am confident that she will find her stride and thrive.

My sensory-overloaded, anxiety-filled kindergartener that has (diagnosed) OCD tendencies? She’s the one I’m concerned about.

She is starting this process for the very first time and is super excited. Because of her birthday being after September 1, she missed the cut-off last year for kindergarten and has had to wait a whole extra year.

Our school district doesn’t have all-day kindergarten, but the Park District has a program that supplements so her schedule would look something like this:

Morning: Park District Kindergarten program. Includes a structured curriculum.


Bus pick-up and transfer to elementary school after lunch.

Afternoon: Kindergarten time!

I’m concerned it’s going to be overwhelming for her. That all of the NEW is going to send her into a tailspin and no one will understand she’s not just being disruptive and willful. But most importantly, I’m afraid that no one is going to understand how special and amazing my little girl is underneath her frustrated-so-she-flips-out exterior.

In preschool, we were blessed with teachers that understood that she needed a little extra time, extra space, needed redirection, and needed to be challenged because she was older than the other kids around her. That she was easily rattled when she couldn’t figure out how to do something. That my daughter was someone that required extra – but that she was totally worth it.

How do I know this will happen again? Do I write a letter to the teacher? Go in and talk to her before the first day of school? I don’t want my daughter to be labeled as a “problem” before she even steps foot in the classroom. But I’d love to give her teachers a heads up that she might need a little extra TLC because of how her mind and body processes things.

Or do I take the “wait and see” approach? Stand back, say nothing, and give it a few weeks to see how she is adjusting to everything, and how her teachers are adjusting to her. Will she surprise me? Will they?

I don’t know what the right answer is. Early notification to the teachers or a “stand back and see what happens” approach? What are your thoughts? I’d love to know!

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