Transitioning Back-to-school

August 4, 2016

No one likes change. Change can be hard. There is no group that struggles with change more than children who are on the spectrum. Add to that change from the relaxing, lazy days of summer to the busy, responsibility-rich school days and there is a recipe for disaster. The slower, more relaxed routine of the summer days is soon to be replaced with the routine of school, homework and lots of things to do. How can you help transition your child back into school mode as gently as possible?

Let’s look at some tips from the experts at Autism Speaks and the May Institute.

  • Start a count-down calendar well in advance so your child knows that school is a certain number of days and weeks away.
  • Maintain a regular bedtime routine whenever possible throughout the summer. If that isn’t possible, then plan a week or more in advance to firm up the school-time bedtime routine and time.
  • Visit your child’s new classroom and if at all possible check in with his/her teacher. If your child has already met the teacher, talk about the teacher’s name and the classroom. Talk about what he/she will learn this year.
  • Update all health forms through the school nurse or secretary.
  • Learn the new routine and practice it. Many children on the spectrum benefit from transition books with picture and explanations of the new situation. For instance, having a picture of his/her new classroom or teacher may help immensely. Take a picture of the drop off location and where his/her personal items will be kept. (locker/cubby)
  • Review your child’s IEP.  Make sure you know what accommodations and changes have been made for this school year. Alert your child to anything that may be different.
  • Talk, Talk, Talk. One of the most important things you can do is to talk to your child about fears, anxieties and how the new school year is going. Check in with them daily especially at the beginning to make sure nothing unexpected has come up.
  • Prepare yourself. Your child may not be the only one who is anxious about the start of a new school year. Prepare yourself by talking to the school administrators/school counselors to express any of your concerns. If you are calm it will go a long way in allaying any of your child’s anxiety.