Why I’m celebrating a smooth return to school for my Angel

Several small changes seem to be helping my daughter adapt

Sabrina L. Johnson avatar

by Sabrina L. Johnson |

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My 13-year-old Angel, Juliana, had an incredible return to school last week. It’s not a newsworthy event, but it is something to celebrate.

Returning to school is a stressful time of year for any family. From school supplies to adjustments and new routines, there’s a lot to juggle during this season, which always seems to sneak up on me. I toss in some additional angst because my 12-year-old daughter, Jessa, has a birthday that falls smack in the middle of the back-to-school chaos.

Nevertheless, I prepare for each return with a few hacks to make our transition smoother. For example, we dropped off Juliana’s supplies at her meet and greet, which meant I didn’t need to put as much into her backpack for the first day. I forgot only one item this year, which makes me feel good.

With those logistics out of the way, I began the wait to see how our year would kick off. As Juliana matures and muddles through puberty, her behavior, given her Angelman syndrome, can be hit or miss. There were a lot of misses this summer, with longer crying jags and stretches of uncooperative behavior. I felt sure this trend would continue into her first week of school.

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Last year, we also had a period in which Juliana would cry and fuss on her way to school. I’ve done two things to combat this reaction. First, we repeatedly talk up her attendance as if she were gearing up for a big event. “Juliana is going to school to see her teacher and friends,” I repeat like a chipper parakeet. I chuckled the other day when I heard my husband repeat the mantra as she fussed while getting ready.

Next, I changed Juliana’s morning routine. Now that Juliana is in middle school, her day starts later. Last year, she and my husband had a separate routine as Jessa and I headed off to school. But I missed time with her in the mornings. So I simply moved her bedtime to an earlier hour so that she can start her day when I begin mine.

Smoother sailing

Although Juliana has a longer wait time before school, I’ve shortened her morning screen time. I think all the lounging and scrolling before school was hindering her ability to make the transition mentally. Her viewing time now stops well before it’s time to head out the door.

With Juliana, I never know if little changes will help. It could be a fluke that she had a great week back. However, I want to believe that these small improvements are just what she needed. My Angel is having a great start to the seventh grade, and I couldn’t be happier. I keep waiting for a note that tells me she’s blowing raspberries again, or screaming so loud that it triggers similar behavior among her classmates. But there’s been none of that yet.

And her teacher’s daily report is not all I take into account. Juliana’s talker, or augmentative and alternative communication device, gives her a voice. I simply go to the source.

“Did you have a good day at school?” I ask.

“Yes,” she answers with a smile.

A girl strikes a pose in front of what appears to be a middle school. She has short, curly brown hair and glasses and is wearing blue shorts and a purple shirt with a rainbow heart on it. With her right hand, she's pulling a pink and purple roller backpack behind her.

Juliana is a happy camper after another great day at school. (Photo by Sabrina L. Johnson)

Note: Angelman Syndrome News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Angelman Syndrome News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Angelman syndrome.


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