As we move past the dog days of summer, we are reminded that September is just around the corner, which means that it’s also almost back to school time again. For children and youth with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), this can be an especially stressful time but there are steps parents can take to make the transition more successful. The key is preparation, preparation, and preparation. Below are some tips on what you can do before, during, and once school starts, to ensure a smoother transition for your child:
- It’s never too early to begin. Find the answers to some key questions, including: Who will be your child’s teacher? What classroom will your child be in? What will the routine be? Now is the perfect time to find out. Teachers are typically back in school the week before Labour Day–this is the perfect time to connect with them or the school Principal.
- Provide your child’s teacher with helpful information about your child. There are lots of helpful resources out there such as the All About Me App (available here:http://igetitapps.com/), but a simple e-mail or note to your child’s teacher will do. Be sure to include your child’s interests, likes and dislikes, as well as any special medical, communication, or other considerations that are important for your child’s teacher to know.
- Make the new routine your child’s friend: Over the summer your child will have become accustomed to a different wake up time, schedule, travel arrangements and expectations. Some or all of these are about to change so it is helpful to align these more closely to what they will need to be when your child returns to school. This will help make the first day of school, already hectic to begin with, a little less of a shock to their system.
- Go for a dry run: Work out any bugs before the first day of school by taking your child for a visit to the school using the same routine you would for their first day. Speak with your child about their hopes, fears and any questions they may have. That way, if any anxieties should occur, you can work through them without feeling rushed.
On the first day of school
- Put time on your side: On the first day of school, build in some extra time to wake up, get ready, and travel to school. The less rushed it is the less anxious your child may feel. As well, should any unexpected issues arise, you will have built in the extra time to manage them.
Throughout the school year
- Celebrate the successes: Remember, not all has to go perfectly on their first day back. It seldom does, for any parent or child. Celebrate with your child what went well and make adjustments for the next day for what didn’t. And remember, going back to school is a process, not a one day event. Your child and you may not feel comfortable in their new routine for a few days or even weeks. Persist! Hang in there. Before you know it, that first day back will seem a distant, pleasant memory.