Starting a new school year can be tough for everyone, especially families of individuals with autism and related disorders. The summer routine is changing and now your child will be moving into a new classroom, meeting new teachers and friends, and going through many new and stressful situations. That is why we have dedicated this post to supporting families as they help their children pack their backpacks and make it a smooth transition for this new school year.
Some tips on getting your children ready:
- Plan a trip to the school: If you haven’t already done so, have a meet and greet with your child’s teacher, take him/her to the cafeteria, the playground, and any other places where he/she will spend most of the time. This way, it won’t be a surprise for your child on their first day. If you can, take pictures of this new environment so they can later be reviewed at home.
- Talk to them about what to expect on their first days of school: Develop visual schedules, read them stories of back-to-school scenarios, and while visiting the school, take photos of your child with the teacher, in the cafeteria, on the playground, etc. Then you can use these photos to create a social story and include a photo of your child engaged in a specific activity.
- Write down recommendations for the teacher: It would help the teacher if you wrote down your child’s strengths and weaknesses, favorite reinforcers and activities, and any other pertinent information that will be valuable for interacting with your child on his/her first week back to school.
- Go on the bus route in advance: If possible, this way your child will know the way to his/her school.
- Buy the school supplies together: Go shopping together so that your child can have options when picking his/her favorite folders, backpack, and any other school related supplies. And don’t throw away their favorites from last year- even if that crayon is worn down, the sight of a familiar friend inside a pencil case can be comforting when everything else around him/her is brand new.
- Get your child to bed on time: During summer, children were used to another routine. Now, they will have to get used to waking up early again and being on a schedule. Thus, proper rest is essential for a healthy and productive school year.
- Provide healthy snacks: Going back to school is not the time to try out new foods. Stick with foods that your child already likes. If your child has dietary needs, make sure to discuss these with his/her teacher. Maybe provide a list of “safe” food items that your child can consume, just in case your child decides to share food items with a friend one day.
- Prepare the new clothes: Wash new clothes a few times to soften them up a bit and get rid of the strange smells. If your child is hypersensitive, cut off all the labels and stretch out any tight neck or wristbands.
- Teach them how to ask for help: This is probably the most important tip! Knowing how, when, and where to ask for help can be a really difficult skill to master, but it’s something that every child should have. If your child cannot ask for help, make sure to inform the teacher so that the teacher is aware.
Once you’ve done everything you can to ensure a smooth transition back to school for your child, there’s nothing more to be done – so take a deep breath and relax! Transitions are hard for our kids, but hopefully these tips will help you and your child ease right into the beginning of a successful school year!