Every year on the first day of school it was traditional for a group of my parent buddies to
meet at a local restaurant for a celebratory lunch, to offer thanks for surviving another long
summer break with their sanity intact. I never joined them, because at our house the new
school year was a huge source of anxiety rather than excitement. While others were
smiling with relief, I would spend the day worrying about all the things that could be going
wrong for my kids and fighting the urge to drive back to school and pick them up.
Over the years I developed a lot of strategies to help ease those first day worries and
make the transition back to school a little smoother for all of us. One of the things that
really made a difference was writing a short introductory letter to their new teacher.
Why write one?
The beginning of a new school year is a hectic time for teachers, with a lot to read and
organize and nowhere near enough time to do it all. At the same time their relationship
with your child needs to start off on the best possible terms, so it’s important that you get a
chance to prevent misunderstandings and offer a heads up about potential problem areas
That’s where the introductory letter comes in. It’s a brief summary that can be read at a
time that suits the teacher, to make your child a real person and not just a list of IEP goals.
Plus it’s something that can go on the school record and be shared with other people who
might be working with your kids.
What should you include?
Aim for a one page summary that includes:
• Your child’s name
• A photo if possible
• Your contact details
• An explanation of your child’s diagnosis and what it means for them
• Any urgent medical issues and medication your child is taking
Then add any other information that you think will help:
• What are areas of strength for your child?
• What are some of the things they find challenging?
• What and how do they enjoy learning the most?
• What are the signs that they’re overloaded or stressed?
• What things trigger meltdowns or sensory overload?
• What things work to provide relief?
• Are there any behaviors that might be disruptive, unexpected or unusual?
• Which parts of the school day are the hardest for them?
• What does it look like when they’re paying attention?
• Do they have any particular sensitivities?
• Do they have special interests that the teacher could incorporate?
• What else would you like the teacher to know about your child?
Whatever you choose to include in your letter, keeping it short will improve the chances
that it actually gets read. You’ll have plenty of time to go into more detail later so stick to a
few main points, the ones that will help start the year on the right foot.
Remember not to let previous bad school experiences colour your approach to the new
teacher. Write with the assumption that they will be positive and cooperative.
These are the kinds of things that might be helpful for a teacher to know:
• Jack responds well to praise.
• Simon feels very self-conscious about making mistakes, so please correct in private
• Last year was a hard one for Elyse, and her self-esteem has suffered as a result.
• When Joel is overwhelmed, spending time in a quiet space will help him to regroup.
• Lucy’s numeracy skills are excellent but she can have trouble understanding written
• Angus has a great sense of humor and loves to help out in the classroom.
• You won’t always know when Grace is stressed.
• Emergency drills are particularly upsetting for Sarah, so please let us know about
these ahead of time.
• Harry does better with written or visual instructions.
• Connor often has trouble getting started, which can look like procrastination or
• When Ben is anxious, talking about roller coasters will help him to calm down.
• Simon takes it very personally if he feels like he’s in trouble, and will have difficulty
letting it go.
• Emma will cope better with any changes in routine when told about them in advance.
These are some great sample letters that others have written, which make a handy
starting point for writing your own:
• Info sheet for new teacher
• Introducing your child to their new teacher
• Writing an introductory letter to your child’s teacher
• A letter introducing your ADD child to his new teacher
• A back to school letter
Good luck and here’s to a successful school year for everyone!
About the Author
Bec Oakley is a special needs advocate, writer, blogger, and a parent of two boys with autism in Australia. Autism is part of what makes her and her kids who they are, so she’s passionate about helping people understand what it’s all about. Check out her excellent blog, Snagglebox.com.