Summer is always fleeting. Before you know it, it’ll be time to switch things up and return to your routines, including heading back to school. This year, we turned to three incredible experts and asked our Facebook VIPs to ask them questions about how they prepare for this time of year which we used in our interviews!
Up first, we turned to Erica Coffelt, speech pathologist, TikTok creator, and recent contestant on America’s Got Talent. We got into the details about her job, how she creates routines and traditions with her family, and even learned about her littles’ favorite lunch foods! Read on to learn more about what Erica shared with us:
Tell us about yourself. How long have you been a speech pathologist?
My husband and I have been married for almost six years. We have two young children (4 ½ and nearly 2). I graduated with my Masters degree in Speech Pathology & Audiology in 2012. I have mostly worked for the public school district with all ages and areas, but I have also worked per diem for private practice companies.
What are the biggest challenges you see as a mother and speech pathologist at the beginning of the school year?
Getting back into the routine and schedule can take a lot of work. We all stay up a bit later and sleep in during the summer. Going on camping trips and vacations can throw off our routines when we get back into the habit of waking up early, eating breakfast, packing bags, and leaving the house on time.
What are your tips for a solid after-school routine?
Consistency is key. We have visual/tactile schedules and calendars in our house for my kids to follow each night once we get home from school/work (1. Play, eat dinner, bath, brush teeth, books/show, potty, bed, etc.) We know kids thrive on routines, so keeping it engaging and consistent is extremely helpful in the long run. Both of my kids have their visual schedule (laminated pictures) they pull off and move to the “done” side using velcro (you can find a variety on Teachers pay teachers). My daughter also loves the Melissa and Doug calendar as well.
What are your favorite breakfast/lunches to pack for school the night before?
For breakfast, my kids love yogurts, cheese, Fig Bars, and breakfast sausage. If we are running late, our daycare is great at feeding them the rest of their breakfast, and they enjoy eating with friends in the morning. My daughter has been helping pack lunches before bed or early morning. A few of their favorite lunches are:
Salami, deli meat, and cheese
Noodles (they prefer eating them cold)
Quesadillas or chicken (we keep them warm in a thermos)
We also love using bento boxes!
How do you set your kids up for success in the new school year?
I love to take my kids out to pick out their new backpacks, outfits, and books to get them excited about their return to school/new classroom.
What are the most common tips for kids struggling with communication?
It depends on what type of communication difficulties the child is having. If you are concerned about your child’s communication and not already seeking support/services, contact your child’s pediatrician for concerns or referrals. You can research early intervention services or communicate your concerns with your child’s teacher.
In general, modeling their speech and language is a great tip. For example, if the child says, “daddy go” you can respond, “Yes! Daddy is going to work. Bye, daddy!” Also, narrating activities you are doing with your child can be helpful. For instance, “You have a little baby! You are putting her to sleep in her bed ‘Shhh.” You can use modeling during many activities; reading with your kids, playing with them, during meal time, driving in the car, etc.
What’s the most rewarding part of what you do?
When I see the progress and hear feedback from students, families, and teachers that they also notice the improvement. I also love when my students request to see me even when it is not their scheduled time. I always try to make time for them; my office door is always open.
What traditions do you have to celebrate the end of summer before the school year starts?
My son’s birthday is at the start of the school year, so we have been trying to start a new tradition of taking small family weekend getaway trips that are quick and within our budget but also something they will remember and enjoy (i.e., zoo, aquarium, baseball game, lake weekend, camping, etc.) I also love to take them shopping to pick out their new backpacks or back-to-school items.
We’re so grateful that Erica took the time to answer our questions and share her routines with us! Be sure to check her out (and dance with her) on TikTok.
Next in our back-to-school series, we’ll interview Caitlin Greer Meister, a children’s educator, author, and mom.