With summer vacation coming to a close, back to school is all but a few short weeks away. Mornings will soon start a bit earlier; first-day outfits will be laid out; school buses will return to their daily routes. This time of year can be equal parts exciting as it is stressful, particularly for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
Whether your child is joining a new classroom, grade, or school, the unfamiliarity of a new academic year can be worrisome. By making preemptive efforts to familiarize your child with his or her new classroom situation before the beginning of the school year, such nerves can be reduced significantly. Through proper preparation and the establishment of a routine, your child can have a great first week of school!
Follow these 5 tips for a smoother transition back to school:
1. Start Crossing the Days off Your Calendar
To provide your child with ample time to prepare, begin marking off the days on a calendar until the big day. This can establish when exactly the school year is set to begin, and gradually familiarize your child with the start date so that they are not overwhelmed or caught off guard when the day finally comes.
Additionally, begin reminding your child throughout the summer, several times a week, if necessary, when school is set to begin and what grade they are going into.
2. Begin Talking About Expectations
Speak with your child about the upcoming year to establish expectations. Doing this will facilitate their transition back to school so that they are not caught off guard by the sudden change in their daily schedule. Consider communicating with them about items such as their school-night sleep schedule, proper classroom behavior, and their anticipated school-day schedule.
You can also try playing school at home to help your child become accustomed to their impending school activities and schedule. While playing school, offer your child behavioral advice on how to deal with their questions and fears. You can also use role-playing to practice hypothetical social interactions such as greetings and introductions. By practicing beforehand, your child will feel more confident and prepared for social interactions at school.
3. Adjust Morning & Bedtime Routine Weeks Before School Begins
Gradually adjust your child’s wake-up time by starting slightly earlier each morning. Also, begin setting their bedtime earlier each night. This strategy can allow a child to become more accustomed to his or her new schedule well in advance of their first day.
There are several weeks of summer vacation remaining, so consider implementing this morning wake-up routine sooner rather than later. This way, your child will have a clear idea of what to anticipate in the time leading up to departing for school. Visual aids are helpful for many children, so consider crafting a physical schedule to outline all of your child’s morning tasks, such as getting dressed and brushing their teeth.
4. Take a Tour of The School & Classroom
A tour of the school with your child can do two things:
- Acquaint and familiarize your child with the school premises before they attend
- Reinforce your presence on school grounds, allowing your child to feel secure in the merging of their home and school lives
During your tour, be sure to visit key areas where your child will spend their time in the upcoming year, such as the main office, nurse’s office, homeroom, restrooms, cafeteria, gym, library, and playground. Communicate with your child about the significance that these different rooms hold and convey how they should conduct themselves inside of each one.
5. Request to Meet Your Child’s Teacher
As a caregiver, it is important to communicate with your child’s teacher about their specific needs and necessary accommodations. In the weeks leading up to the first day, teachers are typically on school grounds preparing for their upcoming school year. Use this time to schedule a meeting and discuss classroom seating, potential distractions, and your child’s unique requirements.