Summer is winding up, and that means it’s time to get ready for a new year of school! Naturally, your child on the spectrum might be a little nervous…and maybe you are, too! But a little preparation can go a long way in easing the transition. Here are some ideas to help.
1. Talk to the teacher (and have your child do the same)
Once the term starts, your child will be spending most of the day with teachers, so take the opportunity to meet them and talk to them. Share with them whatever information you think would be vital (or helpful!) to know. You can also give them your contact information in case they have questions or concerns.
Bring your child along so they can meet the teacher(s), too. And while you’re at the school, this is a great time to take a tour, see the classroom, and find your child’s locker (practice opening it, as well, especially if there’s a combination involved). Some schools have a specific timeframe where students and parents can take a tour. If this is the case, autism mom and blogger Jean Winegardner suggests you ask about making a personal appointment when the school will be quieter.
2. Help your child handle negative emotions
It’s normal for kids to be at least a little nervous about starting school. In some cases, talking about and empathizing with their feelings helps. You can also take the opportunity to teach them problem-solving skills: what should they do if their fears become reality? This is a constructive option for giving your child peace of mind. If they do encounter their worst-case scenarios, they’ll have a way to overcome them.
If talking through feelings is not feasible, you can help by keeping a positive, upbeat attitude. Talk about all the cool experiences your child will be able to have during school. This will get them excited about starting a new term.
3. Ensure the clock does not become an obstacle
There’s nothing like seeing the bus has arrived while your child is still in their pajamas and brushing their teeth. To avoid the stress of running late, calculate how long it takes your child to comfortably get ready on a typical morning and give them an extra fifteen minutes of wiggle room. That will accommodate unexpected obstacles that arise, from tantrums and meltdowns to hunting down the textbook that was literally right there three seconds ago!
4. Give your child a say in choosing routines, supplies, clothes…
People on the autism spectrum tend to prefer routines, so why not consider their input when establishing one? Doing this will allow your child to feel involved, independent, and validated. They’ll be more likely to follow it, too!
It’s also a good idea to give your child choices in other areas, like clothes shopping, school supplies shopping, and packing lunches. In terms of school supplies, however, keep in mind that your child may prefer some of the ones from last year.
5. Give your child a place to turn
If your son or daughter is being bullied or needs one-on-one tutoring with algebra, do they know where to go for help? A favorite teacher? The office secretary? You? Whatever your child may face, make sure they have a safe place to turn and encourage them to do so if needed.