How can you help your Neurodiverse child best prepare to return to the school routine?
It can be easy leaving the thought of preparing your child for school till the last minute, but for them a sudden change in routine can mean a massive stressful upheaval thats worth the time and effort to best avoid.
For a kid (and parents) Summer school holidays seem to last forever, and thats often a fairly unstructured daily routine, not too bound by time limits, constraints or clothing choice- (pajamas all day). Then suddenly Feb comes along and its early starts, uniforms, and a long day at school...Stressful enough for Neurotypical kids...with neurodiverse kids it can be a whole new level!
So here’s 10 Helpful tips thats worth the effort to smooth out that sudden transition from the holiday cruise to the routines of School life.
1. Try creating a basic schedule in the holidays and Prepare one for School
Neurodiverse children often thrive on routine and predictability. Create a visual schedule that outlines their daily activities, including waking up, any planned or optional daily activities, meals and bedtime. Display this schedule in a prominent place at home to provide a sense of structure and familiarity- A whiteboard may do the trick. Set up a monthly calendar, and together mark out a countdown to the beginning of school. Around one or two weeks out, create a visual schedule of a typical school day and week- Don’t forget treat fridays!
2. Gradually adjust sleep patterns
During the summer break, sleep schedules often are more relaxed. Help your child ease into the school routine by gradually adjusting their sleep patterns two or three weeks before school starts. Encourage them to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day to ensure they get enough rest. You may need to agree on set times, but as the weeks get closer, agree to change those times to suit the School routine.
3. Play or visit the school during Summer holidays
Pay a few visits to the school grounds before school starts. You may be able to enter and play on the playgrounds, or ride a scooter or bike... Positive and familiar associations help make the school their ‘own’.
4. Introduce the concept of uniforms
If your child's school has uniforms, if unfamiliar, you may need to introduce the idea of uniforms to them gradually. Most uniforms these days are pretty comfy, or they give you options of a sweatshirt or jumper for example. For kids with tactile sensitivities this may be a challenge...so have a few practice days of wearing the uniform for a short while- try turning into a game, or a promise for a trip to the dairy often works wonders for getting them to try...
5. Chat with the school or the new Teacher
Reach out to your child's teacher or school staff to discuss their specific needs and challenges. Share any relevant information about your child's condition and it can give you the chance to collaborate on strategies that have worked well in the past- You are the best judge of this! In the last week of holidays, teachers will often do one or two days of prep-Email them- This might be an opportunity for your child to have a quick meet and greet with the new teacher and show them around the new classroom and break the ice.
6. Use visual aids and social stories
Visual aids, such as social stories or visual schedules, can help your child understand and prepare for different school routines and expectations. Use pictures, drawings, or written descriptions to illustrate various scenarios they may encounter at school.
7. Provide advance notice of changes- Pre Warn!
Sudden changes can be a nightmare inducing scenario for some neurodiverse kids. Try and let them know any changes to last years routine, such as a new teacher or a different classroom or school. Prepare them for these changes by discussing what to expect and answering any questions they may have.
8. Practice school-related skills
Help your child develop and practice essential school-related skills, such as organizing their backpack, using a locker, or following classroom rules. Role-play different scenarios to familiarize them with these skills and build their confidence.
9. Encourage social interactions
Social interactions can be challenging. Encourage your child to engage in social activities with friends or neighbourhood kids, both inside and outside of school. Arrange playdates or join social groups where they can interact with other children in a supportive environment. It should help them cope better when faced with the buzzing social nature of School.
10. Celebrate achievements and progress
Recognize and celebrate your child's achievements, no matter how small. Positive reinforcement can boost their self-esteem and motivation. Praise their efforts, acknowledge their progress, and provide reassurance during this transition period.
Try giving these tips a go. If one doesn’t work, try another and you’ll likely make some headway into making that Summer holiday/School routine transition.
Remember, great minds don’t think alike, and each neurodiverse kid is unique, so don’t be afraid to freestyle these strategies to suit your childs needs, sensitivities and preferences.
Give yourself a huge pat on the back, you’re a great parent, and with your support and guidance, they can learn to thrive in the school environment and achieve their full potential.