The end of summer vacation means one thing: back to school. While it can be a relief to have your children back in school, the process of preparing can be daunting. We have put together a back to school guide that will help you plan ahead and combat worry. So when the big first day comes along, you can trust in all your preparations and your strong, capable students.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but talking to your child about what to expect is very important. As the start of school nears, talk to them about the upcoming changes, their new routine, meeting new teachers and friends, and their school-day schedule. Communication also includes speaking with your child’s teacher. To help the teacher keep track of your child’s needs, write out a page detailing their interests, strengths and weaknesses, possible sensory issues, dietary restrictions, and favorite items.
Begin a New Routine
As summer winds down, create a new morning and nighttime routine to practice before the start of the school year. Sleep is vital for growing minds and bodies, especially when going back to school. Re-introduce your child to earlier bedtimes and wake times. Start early by showing what alarm will wake them, what breakfast will look like, when everyone will get ready, and what they will bring to school – focus on the details and cater how you present them to your child’s learning abilities.
Rehearsal, Practice, and Exposure
After communicating to your child about what their new school-day routine will look like, go through the steps one-by-one. Have your child become acquainted with the school’s atmosphere by allowing them to explore with you. Visit the school, walk the halls, visit the classrooms, the cafeteria, gym, and library. Don’t forget to take pictures and practice what’s where at home – research has shown that individuals on the spectrum tend to learn best using visual supports. This is especially important if they’re starting at a new school or being moved to a new classroom.
Before sending your child off on their own, plan some face-to-face time with their new teachers and peers. If you know your child’s class roster before they get there, host a play date to ease social anxiety. If also possible, have your child meet their teacher(s) prior to the start of school. During your walk-through rehearsal, there often will be plenty of staff in the building setting up and if you explain your unique situation, it is a great time to meet new faces in a quiet setting. Friendly, familiar faces go a long way.
Ask for Help
We understand parents can build careers off worrying. Believe it or not, all children can pick up on when their parents are feeling anxious. Turn your nervousness into excitement, and this will help your child do the same! Asking for help can be a key resource and stress-reliever during this process – it shows you are willing to learn and open to trying new things to help your child.