As us parents not so secretly breathe a sigh of relief that the challenges of the holidays draw to a close, a whole lot of new ones are on our way.
Whether your child are starting school for the first time or going back after months of lockdown, the beginning of a new school year can be an anxious time for both parents and children.
The change in the daily routine established over the holidays (later bed times and lets be honest...more time on the technology!) can be an especially tricky transition to navigate.
Below are some tips to help prepare a child with autism for the new school year.
Familarise and reintroduce your child to the school setting. Perhaps visit the school pool, building or spend some time on the playground. Driving by the school several times is another good idea. Talk about school with your child often. Look at pictures of friends and school activities from the previous year to encourage conversation about school.
Pre warn, pre warn
Use social stories to familiarize your child with routines and how to respond when an unexpected event occurs. Anticipate sensory overload. The activity, noise and chaos of a typical classroom can sometimes be difficult to manage and pre warn any potential triggers, wearing a mask, for example.
Establish a plan of action for this situation, possibly a quiet room where the child can take a short breaks or use sensory tools designed to aid the overloading. Check out Sensory Sams Back to School Kit here.
A visual aid, like a calendar or year planner can be great. Cross days off .
Some children may have anxiety about when the school year begins. Simply crossing days off the calendar may help your child better understand the timing when the school year start.
Re introduce slowly
The week before, try and get that time for bed back to normal.
Trust me, they are not going like it when you spring it on them the night before school starts.
This also applies to the sleep ins. Perhaps (gently) start waking your child closer to school wake up time, the week before.
Write a letter to the teacher outlining your child’s strengths, weaknesses, sensory issues, dietary restrictions, and favourite sensory tools. It is very helpful to teachers to have a “snapshot” of your child prior to teaching them. And if possible, have your child help you create this document. It will be super useful for all the school staff to have an understanding of the quirks!
Be sure to include a few things that are fun about your child, not just the issues. Bragging is totally acceptable!
If possible, volunteer. Your presence at school sends the message that you are actively involved in your child’s education.
Also, (until they get too cool) children love to see their parents at school. Major Brownie points.
In summary, do everything possible to help reduce the stress level for your child and family during this transition time. Don’t forget to prepare yourself also!
A calm and collected parent is better able to help their child so...BREATHE.......