Mid-August hits and the back-to-school commercials begin. For many parents with autistic children, back-to-school can be a nerve-racking time, but it doesn’t have to be. With a little planning and creativity, it can be an exciting time for all.
The following are tips to help ease the stress and assist your child in transitioning back to the classroom:
- Request a home visit Many schools already provide a home visit for special needs children. If your child’s school doesn’t already offer a home visit, contact them and arrange one. The business offices in most schools are usually open part-time hours during the summer. By having your child’s teacher come to the house it gives him/her the opportunity to see your child in his/her own environment and it helps your child become familiar with his new teacher. Ask the teacher to bring pictures of the classroom and the names of the other children that will be in your child’s class.
- Plan a back-to-school party Every year, in the month of August, I would obtain the list of children that would be in my son’s class from the school secretary. I would invite the teachers and the aides, along with the children to a back-to-school party. We would play games that would help the children get to know each other, and I would provide activities such as: decorating shoe boxes for holding their school papers in; or calendars that would list everyone’s name with their picture next to it, so that they could hang them in their own homes reminding them of their new friends. The teachers had as much fun as the kids!
- Make arrangements to bring your child to school a day or two before it starts Most teachers are back to work one week prior to the first day of school. Arrange to bring your child in at a time just the teacher(s) will be there. This will help your child become familiar with the classroom; and the location of his cubby, the bathroom, the playground, and the cafeteria. By touring the school or more specifically, the areas around the school that your child will come in contact with on a regular basis will ease a lot of your child’s anxiety on the first day.
- Bring something from home To help ease the transition back-to-school, many teachers welcome the child to bring an item from home that he favors. Discuss this with your child’s teacher ahead of time—something as small as a favorite book tucked in his cubby, will provide a calming connection to home. This also works wonders if your child suffers from separation anxiety.
I will continue to post tips and strategies over the next few weeks for making the transition back-to-school a positive one for your child and your family. Please share tips that have worked for your family by commenting below, or Tweeting @alleviateautism and I will be sure to post!