The warm summer months are often filled with fun events, vacations, sunny days, outdoor activities, and plenty of time with family and friends. The season is just long enough to create a new norm for your family. That means your son or daughter with autism will need to adjust back to the daily grind of school in what feels like no time at all.
The problem with the shift from summer to fall is that going back to school can be jarring for kids on the spectrum. This can be stressful for all involved, creating anxiety for parents as they seek to help their children have the most seamless and enjoyable transition possible.
The good news is that there are several steps you can take and tips you can employ to help smooth the end-of-summer process. Here are a few of our favorite ways to make back to school season something you can all look forward to experiencing together.
HOW TO HELP YOUR CHILD GET READY TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL
The start of the school year is exciting and stressful for everyone, but especially children with autism.
Here are some ways to help your son or daughter get into the back to school groove.
GO ON A SCHOOL TOUR
Whether this is your child’s first year at the school or fifth, going on a tour of his or her classroom, hallways, bathrooms, cafeteria, office, gym, and even playground will go a long way toward easing anxiety.
If possible, take pictures of the important rooms and doorways your son or daughter needs to know, then hang them on a bulletin board at home to help him or her become familiar with the sights.
GET THE SCHEDULE STARTED EARLY
Start going to bed and waking up around the time you’ll need to do so during the school year. Remind your child where to find his or her clothes, book bag, books and homework, lunch, and other gear. It works best if you have these things set up in advance, with a designated spot for clothing, a hook for backpacks, a place for shoes, and so on.
Have breakfast where you will normally eat and eat the same types of foods you’ll serve throughout the school year. You might even want to drive by the school in the weeks before to practice being on and walking around the grounds.
GET GOOD SLEEP!
Poor sleeping patterns and lack of sleep have been linked to all types of physical, mental, and emotional disturbances, including contributing to anxiety, stress, and focus issues, among myriad others.
Getting a good night’s sleep will help minimize anxiety and tension, and help your little one start each day with fresh eyes.
SET UP A MEETING WITH FACULTY
Most teachers are available in the weeks before the school year starts because they’re setting up their classrooms and preparing their lesson plans.
Children sometimes feel anxious when they cannot get in touch with their parents throughout the day. A “hug button” can be drawn on his or her hand in marker or applied as a sticker on a binder, but the idea is that your child need only press the button to give you a hug across the miles.
Tell him or her you’ll be giving one right back the minute it reaches you, and practice giving and sending hugs in the weeks leading up to school.
Here’s wishing you a happy and safe end-of-summer and back-to-school season!