Having any child go to school for the first time or back to school starting a new year in a new grade can be nerve racking for any parent. Throw autism into the mix, it becomes overwhelming – but it doesn’t have to be. You as the parent play the most important role to ensuring your child has a good first day and a great year.
Don’t ask what your child’s school can do for you but rather what you can do for your child’s school. Starting off on the right foot with your child’s teachers, special needs liaison, therapists and administrators makes for a smooth first day, week and month!
- Schools are open during the summer usually running on a lighter schedule. Go to the special needs office and introduce yourself to the secretary in the office. Tell them your child’s name and ask if there is anything you can do on your end to make the secretary’s and or the special needs liaison’s dealings with your child easier.
- If your child is going to school for the first time, the preschool teacher would most likely contact you during the summer. When they do, ask them for a home visit. It is vitally important that they meet your child in an environment that your child is comfortable in. Ask them to bring a few items/toys that will be in the classroom for your child to bring back the first day. This will give your child a connection and purpose for going. Take the teacher’s picture with your child in your home if your child is comfortable with that. Hang-up as many post-it stickies as there are summer days left—the last one being the picture of your child and his teacher.
- Offer to purchase a subject notebook for you and your child’s teacher to share. Entitle the notebook “home-to-school.” Every-day, have your child’s teacher write to you just a quick note about how your child’s day went. When it comes back to you at the end of the school day in your child’s back-pack – write any behaviors, concerns, and suggestions that you’d like the teacher to be aware of. After a few weeks, you’ll have built an open communication with your child’s teacher and be informed daily of your child’s progress as if you were personally in the classroom.
- If you child tends to have accidents away from home, supply the teacher with extra clothes. This is crucial if your child is tactile defensive as he will be comfortable in the clothes you send —but most likely would be upset to wear what was available in the classroom closet.
- Transitions can be difficult for children. Make sure that the teacher keeps you abreast of any upcoming changes, i.e., fire drills, assemblies, new people coming into the classroom. Again, using the post-it suggestion as above, take a picture of the upcoming event (fire alarm box or fireman for fire drill) and talk to your child about it each day prior to the event. Have your child partake by pulling off the stickies.