A girl, guitar

You might be asking yourself if anyone is seriously planning for the next school year before this year is even over. Maybe you're thinking that any person doing that must be very anal retentive or a have control issues. If you are asking yourself any of these questions when presented with the fact that someone is indeed planning for next school year in May, consider yourself lucky. You are lucky because, chances are, you don't have a child with special needs.

Please don't get me wrong. My children, all four of them, are pretty darn amazing. Our daughter, who was given an autism diagnosis in 2013, is exceptional in many ways. For example, she cannot tell a lie. I asked her how I looked in a new dress once and she told me my butt looked big. She is also lacking in the ability to judge others on insignificant features. I asked her if she liked "ugly fish" in a game of what do you like the other day; she told me "There are no ugly things!" She apparently does like ugly fish.

I will also admit, full heartedly, I am anal retentive. I remember when all my VHS tapes were in alphabetical order.

We Don't Have the Luxury of Assuming

We Don't Have the Luxury of Assuming So why am I planning for next year this year? What things could I possible be planning for? Well, we don't really have the luxury of assuming anything in our family. We cannot assume that our daughter will not have a major meltdown entering the school and finding out she has to go to a new classroom. Nope, we cannot assume that the IEP that was created together with the school will be followed by a new teacher that was not on the team this year. We cannot assume that they will look at or know her goals for the year or the time and setting of her additional resources, like speech or occupational therapy. Unfortunately, our sweet little angel is scared of everything. She fears change. Change can cause her anxiety, panic, and even a meltdown if we really forget that assuming is not one of our luxuries. But that's okay. Because in our house, fear is just an indication that we don't have a good enough plan yet.

Already Planning for Creative Competence

Yeppers. If she is scared, then we know we need a plan. It is brilliant really. Our bodies and brains, most often regardless of what diagnosis we are given, are amazing at giving us signals that something needs to happen differently. So, when she is scared it is just her body triggering her, and us, to give her a new strategy that allows her to not be afraid.

We plan for creative competence. Essentially that means we do assume she will be able to do it. Yet, we plan for the worst-case scenario, that she won't. That's creative competence. She is afraid of new people, so we will meet her new teacher before the school year ends and introduce them. Yep, before the year ends since summer vacation isn't exactly the optimal time to get ahold of teachers. No, really, try it once.

We can create a school station for her as well. You know, that super special place that has all the backpacks, lunch boxes, and school supplies? If we don't wait to introduce the landing zone until the first day of school, she also knows part of that routine. It is one less thing she doesn't need to be scared of. Well, she will still tell us it is scary, but she won't meltdown - so I'll take what I can get.

There is too much going on these days for me to manage it all myself.

I needed a strategy to ensure that I did what I committed to for my daughter, and that her school did what they committed to as well.

So, I started a company and created a software that could help me help myself – and my little girl.

Planning for Strategic Compliance

I admit that she isn't the only one that is scared of the new school year. Sometimes all the things that we have to do, advocate for, and remember really get overwhelming. Things like ensuring that her IEP is followed, that everyone knows the goals, and that we she is getting the accommodations that were agreed on can be daunting and exhausting.

Where fear is present, our family plans. In my case, I am an entrepreneur, mother of four, and I help care for my Mom remotely. There is too much going on these days for me to manage it all myself. I needed a strategy to ensure that I did what I committed to for my daughter, and that her school did what they committed to as well. Solutions to manage my complex family caregiving situation didn't exist. So, I started a company named MindLight, LLC and created a software that could help me help myself – and my little girl.

Executing Strategic Plans

I didn't realize that parenting was going to need the same type of effort that was required to run a company. Yet, it is in our family. So, we needed our family to be a team. We needed to have a plan, tasks, and calendar that we could all use and see. We needed to be able to exchange information quickly, and in the case of personal medical information, safely. The app by MindLight, LLC does just that. I never wanted anyone to feel as helpless as I felt when I started our journey. I figured this was at least a start.

Seriously Planning for the Next School Year

So yes, we are seriously planning for the next school year, in May of this school year. We put all our tasks in the family calendar. We assign tasks to each other. Since we have done it before we don't forget anything now. We can exchange therapy notes or teacher notes without too much work. It does gives us a tad bit more control. Frankly, at the end of the day, or the beginning of the next school day, we feel like we made every effort to help our little girl feel less afraid and more in control too.•

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jackie Schwabe is CEO of Mindlight, LLC and Vice President of Leadership Research at North of Center. She is a certified Caregiving Presenter, Certified Caregiving Consultant, and Certified Caregiving Educator. She received her BA in Management Computer Systems from the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater and her MBA in Technology Project Management from the University of Phoenix. She has been active in the area of healthcare integration, healthcare IT, telemedicine, product development, and product management for over 20 years. A mother of four children, one with autism, she cofounded MindLight, LLC as a way to technologically help caregivers. She joined North of Center because she saw a way to use the Communication-Based Leadership framework to help others.