Transitioning Back to School: Tips for Parents
It’s that time of year again, that transition back to school. Every year, most parents are happy to have their kids go back to school. But for parents of autistic and other neurodiverse children, transitioning back to school isn’t often easy. Many kids on the spectrum enjoy having a routine, and although they might enjoy school once they’re there, making the change can be hard on everyone. In this article, we’ll go over transitioning back to school, including some back to school tips for parents.
How Do I Prepare My Child for Back to School?
First, talk to your child often about what the new routine will look like and feel like. Talking with your child will help to ease the anxiety that a change in routine will bring. Transitioning back to school is rarely an easy task. You may want to create a calendar together so that your child knows exactly when school starts. Put the calendar in a prominent place so that your kid can see it. Another tip is to practice the new routine a few days before school begins. Set a clock for the actual time they will get up, and have them dress, brush their teeth, get their lunch, and prepare for the bus or car ride to school. Make your child feel like the new routine is in his control as much as possible so that surprises are minimized. High school in particular will be filled with big, scary new routines for kids going to high school for the first time. Visit the school ahead of time, meet with teachers, and find students who are a year or two ahead of them to help ease the anxiety.
How to Prepare Your Child for the School Day
If you’re able to meet with your child’s teacher or teachers, ask about the schedule for breaks, PE, and lunch. Your child will enjoy knowing the schedule for successfully transitioning back to school. Your child will also need to know what to do during each time of the school day. For instance, how does he or she change clothes for PE? You may want to rehearse each step with your child: putting on shoes and socks, pants, and shirts, as well as any athletic gear they may need. Your child also needs to know what to do at lunchtime, and how to handle breaks. Maybe she never has eaten lunch from a lunchbox. How does she do that? These steps can be practiced as well. Get as detailed as possible so your child feels really comfortable. What is easy for you might seem daunting to your child.
How to Help Your Child Enjoy School
Your autistic child will enjoy school more if there is a highly-structured routine. Most schools have routine built into their schedules, with set times for recess, lunch, and classes. In addition, set up specific times for your child to do homework and prepare for the next day of school. It’s important to have visual reminders for everything. Pictures and photos can be used to schedule your child’s day. Neurodiverse children make the adjustment to a new school or change in routine if they know ahead of time what is expected of them. As your child ages, you can replace the previous year’s pictures, calendar, and routines with updated ones. You’ll be learning along with your autistic child what best works for them.
How to Help Your Child Adjust to a New School
Transitioning back to school, especially if your child is going to a new school, is a significant change for your child. You will need to spend more time going over schedule changes, and what is expected at the new school. Not only will all activities and expectations change for your child, they’ll have different social activities and goals as well. Your neurodiverse child may well have a lot of anxiety because there will be so many changes.
Back-to-School Tips and Tricks
One of your best resources will be teachers at your child’s school. Other parents will also be a goldmine of information, especially if your child is transitioning to a new school. You will not be familiar with the routine enough to explain it to your child unless you understand it yourself. Be sure to go to any open house events at your child’s school to familiarize yourself with the teachers, layout, and nuances of the school.
Check Out Identifor’s Tools for Back-to-School Success
Identifor has a career tool parents can use to aid with transitioning back to school. Then parents can discuss the results with the child’s study team/teacher, etc. We strongly recommend downloading Identifor’s Companion app and becoming familiar with Abby for support before, during, and after the school day.
If you enjoyed this article, you might also find Transition Planning For Students With Autism: Achieving Success on the Spectrum interesting.