Independence, Initiative and Return to School

It’s that time of year, again, when summer break is coming to a close and the first day of school is fast approaching. The new school year is a great way to demonstrate independence and put training in initiative to work for you.

Let’s face it, we all want the opportunity to have more control of the things that matter to us. Whether it is what we wear or what we eat or how we spend our time, we want to be heard. As a young person, you know that the more you demonstrate the ability to care for yourself independently, the more your parents or guardians will feel able to empower you to make positive decisions on your own.

So, what can you do leading up to the school year to gain more independence? It all starts with taking initiatives to set yourself up for positive outcomes in the coming months.

Make a list of supplies you need for school. Consider what you expect your course schedule to look like. Are there subjects you know you will be taking? How many classes do you anticipate taking during the week? How many notebooks, pencils, or folders do you think you will need to stay organized? Where can you purchase these items? Do some places offer better deals on the supplies than others?

Research best deals in back-to-school clothing. One of the things that can be a lot of fun when returning to school is checking out new fashions and updating your closet. Demonstrate your understanding of expenses and budgeting by looking at the ads at the retailers you typically go to with your family to see who has the best deals on clothing and share this information with your parents. If you need adaptive clothing, do some online research to determine which retailers offer options in your size and share the links with your parents.

Start resetting your schedule. One of the things that makes summertime special is that there is more freedom with your schedule. However, getting used to waking up early enough to arrive at school on time and ready to start the day can be challenging after late nights and sleeping in. You can help to ease yourself into this by starting now to regulate your schedule. So, if you have gotten into the habit of staying up to 2 am and sleeping until 10 am, start going to bed earlier and make yourself get up the same time every day. Work throughout the coming weeks toward finding a good time to go to bed that ensures you get enough sleep and are able to wake up at the right time to do everything you need to do be on time and alert. Use the following to help you plan.


  1. What time do I need to be at school?
  2. How long does it take to get to school?
  3. How much extra time do I need in case of traffic?
  4. What do I need to do to get ready for school (ex: shower, dress, eat breakfast, check my backpack to ensure I have homework, etc.)?
  5. How much time does each task take?
  6. How much sleep do I need to feel alert?

Wake-Up Time:

Arrival Time at School (A) – Total Time Needed in Morning (B+C+E) = Time to Wake Up


Time to Wake Up – Amount of Sleep Needed (F)

Ensure accommodations are in place for the new school year. Talk to your parents to make sure you understand your Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and what needs to be done to ensure that your accommodations are set up at the beginning of the year. Take this opportunity to talk to them about what challenges you ran into with regards to your accommodations last year and come up with a plan for addressing those in the coming school year. Read our article about Back-to-School Self-Advocacy Tips and talk through with your parents what steps you should take if a teacher refuses to comply with your IEP.

Set goals for the coming year. Think through what goals you want to achieve during the new school year and write them down. When done, write down what you need to do to reach each goal. For example, if you want to get better grades this year, what do you need to do? Do you need to set aside time each day to complete your homework on time? Do you need to spend extra time reading or studying certain subjects? Do you need to ask for help or a tutor for certain subjects?

Find new ways to demonstrate initiative. Think about what it means to demonstrate initiative; how else can you show your parents that you can be trusted to do what needs to be done? Everybody has unique experiences and their own needs that can be addressed. Maybe you have younger siblings who you can help get ready in the mornings. Perhaps you want to talk to your friends about creating a study group where you can work together on homework and study. Possibly you want to show your parents that you can handle a job and school. Perhaps you want to plan a fundraiser for Bender Leadership Academy. What steps can you take independently to help you reach these goals?

Remember, being independent means being accountable for those things we are responsible for. It means keeping our word when we make a promise. Initiative means not waiting for others to tell us to do what needs to be done. These are both qualities of leaders and good employees. Start your school year off as a leader and take initiative now.

We, at Bender Leadership Academy, are looking forward to connecting with our students in the fall. Contact us to learn more about what programs we are offering this year.