Your child with special needs is probably anxious about starting school. You may be asked every day, "When does school start?" or s/he may show his/her anxiety by acting out, refusing to eat, or in other ways unique to his/her personality.
Telling your child that school starts in two weeks, a week from now, or in five days may not be understood by a child with a cognitive disability. Instead of saying when school starts or pointing to abstract numbers on a calendar, try counting down by hours.
Start by making a timeline of each day that leads up to the start of school and the things you and your child will be doing before school starts. All of the days leading up to the day before school starts can contain one thing that you and your child will do that day. For example, one day you may go to the dentist, another day, you may go to the zoo.
Find photos or pictures to show what you will do on these days and glue them to a long string of paper, after printing the day and date at the top of each "frame" on the timeline. Place stick-on magnet strips on the back of the long strip and attach it to the fridge so you and your child can mark off each day after that day's activity is done with a big X.
The day before school, which may be a Sunday, should be divided into the activities you and your child will do that day. Religious service, housecleaning, recreational activities, and dinner with the family should all be on the timeline created on a separate strip of paper. Use photos and pictures for each activity and replace the other timeline with it.
The last item on the timeline can be a photo or picture representing your child's school bus, a photo of your child's school, or a photo of your child's teacher or class. Assist your child to mark off each activity as the day progresses so that s/he can see that s/he is getting closer to the start of school.
It is perfectly normal for children of all ages and abilities to be excited about starting school each year. Some children, however, may have anxiety about starting school due to various reasons, including bullying, a bad experience with a teacher, or any other number of reasons. If your child has anxiety for this reason, seek help.
However, if your child is anxious and behaving inappropriately or annoyingly because s/he is excited about starting school, you can relieve this anxiety by helping him/her understand how long it will be before school starts with activities like this one. You might always try using a timeline throughout the school year with your child.
Learning about time and its passage will improve your child's cognition and give him/her a needed skill for adult living and community integration. Once your child develops more understanding of how time passes, you can try matching activities on a timeline to dates on a calendar posted next to it so your child can make the connection.