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Back to School Tips and Tools from Director of Student Support Services

August 15, 2022
By Dr. Wendy E. Abajian

Like most schools, The Gooden School will soon be back in the swing of things for the Fall! 

Schools will be welcoming back long-time families, as well as many new ones.  Excitement/Anticipation is high with the onset of the new year! 

We realize that the excitement of returning may be mixed with a bit of apprehension, and in some cases even anxiety. Parents may query exactly how to prepare students for successful first time entry, or re-entry back onto campus, and seek reasonable insights and tips to best support new and returning students.  At Gooden, we embrace  an overall common sense approach to questions and provide reasonable solutions to better serve our students, while providing  basic organizational tools to families that will help instill a fresh perspective, and a reduced sense of confusion with the start of the 2022-2023 school year.

As always, parents are the first line in preparing and instilling positive attitudes within their families. They are optimally positioned to encourage positive conversations with their children and adolescents, as well as fostering study time rules and practices within the home.  

The school provides and implements the structure and foundation for the learning experiences and formal education of all students enrolled within their setting.  
Keeping that in mind, we are embarking on an adventure that best encourages both an excellent education, and instills respectful behaviors that must  be exhibited in the school setting, and will carry-over into the community at large.


Since 2000, I’ve been able to work in both the private and public sectors as they relate to childhood, pre-adolescent, adolescent, college, and adult educational learning programs. Much of my time was devoted to providing Educational Therapy within my own private practice in Sherman Oaks. In 2012, I decided to venture to our ‘sister office’ in Arcadia, which then opened another door to Integrated Learning Solutions in San Marino. It would be that new work opportunity, and introduction that would lead me to eventually begin work at The Gooden School. What initially began as only a nine hour a week part-time job, has grown to a full-time position, and I’m proud to say that this fall I’ll be starting my seventh year.

At the beginning of every year, whether in my private practice, or in the schools, I’d pose the question to individual students: “What would you like to do better this year?” A sort of ‘New Year’s Resolution’ type of question. Inevitably, the responses I’d gather would reflect their heartfelt intentions to do better at: reading (read more and better); become a better writer; finish their assignments/projects on time; work more on my own.

Ah yes…growing and maturing to greater independence.

Independence has always been one of my greatest areas of focus: to support the learning style(s) of my students/clients, to best attain and - hopefully at some point fully achieve - that independence.  It takes time, it takes commitment, it takes patience and it takes a lot of diligent effort and work, on ‘ALL’ of our parts.

In my ongoing commitment to fostering stronger supports for students, I ask that we all foster the ideology of working toward the greater potential and self-determination of reasonable and attainable educational goals, but also set aside time to look at all the wonderful individual creativity and dreams students possess that will blossom and be nurtured within their individual school experience, and with God’s grace take them to a higher academic journeys within their lives.   

Some Organizational Tips for Strengthening Executive Skills
● Organizing your child’s backpack by utilizing a visual daily checklist that your child goes through to identify each item that is needed to be included (i.e. pencil cases, markers, notebooks, journals, etc.) as requested by classroom teachers.

● Create a ‘To Do’ List - place it where your child will read with you and know exactly what’s on their schedule following school  (erasable white board, iPad, etc.).

● Designate a specific workspace for your child, a space where they know they can work and maintain their own materials for continued use. Older children and adolescents should ideally have a desk in their room if possible, to keep track of incoming and outgoing assignments.  A place where they can enter assignments on a calendar, or onto their electronic device(s) i.e. laptops, iPads, phones, Chromebooks, etc.

● Encourage responsibility of pre-teens and adolescents for daily checking their assignments online as supplied by their school. 
Support independent thinking and follow through with adolescent students to advocate on their behalf with their teachers, and specialized administrators to communicate their needs, (in-person or via e-mails).

● Establish a mobile-type roving ‘study vehicle’ within your own Car/SUV, etc.  Placing duplicate materials in your vehicle’s trunk, or even better placing items in over-the-seat carriers/pockets, organizers, along with make-shift lapboards (covered cookie sheets), to facilitate a study time on the road!

A Few ‘Back to School’ Reading Resources for Parents:

‘Mentally Preparing for Back to School’ 
By Dr. Jennifer Katzenstein, Ph. D. , 2022.

Smart but Scattered: The Revolutionary “Executive Skills” Approach to Helping Kids Reach Their Potential, By Peg Dawson, EdD, and Richard Guare, PhD, 2009.

Smart but Scattered Teens:  The “Executive Skills” Program for Helping Teens Reach Their Potential, By Richard Guare, PhD, Peg Dawson, and Colin Guare, 2012.

What Your ADHD Child Wishes You Knew: Working Together to Empower Kids for Success in School and Life, By Dr. Sharon Saline, 2018.


In 2015, “Dr. Wendy” joined the Gooden School, as well as continuing her private practice. 

She has implemented learning support as an educational therapist and educational specialist-consultant, to both the private and public school sector, creating and providing individualized support for students. She worked from her established practice within Pediatric, Adolescent, Psychology and Associates, (PAPA), also serving as an independent contractor to the Los Angeles Unified School District and the San Fernando Valley Regional Center, and an Educational Inclusion Specialist to charter schools, contracted via Speech, Language and Educational Associates (SLEA).

She received her doctorate in education, and a Master’s of Science in education from the University of Southern California. She holds a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential (K-12) and a Special Education Teaching Credential.

Dr. Wendy is a current board member of the Pindler Family Foundation (a philanthropic non-profit) and a former two-time gubernatorial appointee to the former advisory board at Lanterman Developmental Center, and to the advisory board of Protection and Advocacy, Inc.