The transition back to school after summer can be stressful for any parent and child. For autistic children, it can be overwhelming. Although my daughter is not of school age yet, I am preparing now for her first day of school. I’m not going to lie, I am scared to death! But I have found comfort in her therapists and friends with autistic children. I created a list of ways to make her first day of school as smooth as possible based on success stories of fellow autism Moms.
- Sleep – Start getting the family back on track with adequate sleep by going to bed a few minutes early every night 2 weeks before school starts.
- Morning chart – Make a simple visual aid for morning routines your child can look at when getting ready for school every morning.
- School meeting – Schedule a meeting with the principal, teacher and school therapists the week before school. This is the perfect time to discuss your child’s strengths and weaknesses, dietary restrictions, and health and safety concerns. Also discuss any helpful tips that will allow the teacher to better understand your child. Educators welcome input, so be sure to mention strategies that are useful at home. If you haven’t already scheduled an IEP meeting for your child, this is the perfect time to mention it. An IEP is an important legal document. It spells out your child’s learning needs, the services the school will provide and how progress will be measured. Please go to the U S Department of Education website to learn more about an IEP.
- Teacher meeting and school tour – Schedule a meeting one on one with your child and his/her teacher a few days before school. This is the perfect opportunity for the child to learn the layout of the classroom and get to know their teacher before the first day of school. Take your child on a tour of the school cafeteria, restrooms, playground and bus entrance.
- Books – Read a few books with your child about starting school or going back to school. Here is a list of a few of the books:
- First Day of School (Little Critter Series) by Mercer Mayer
- My First Day of School by P.K. Halinan
- Sea Monster’s First Day by Kate Messner
- Starting School by Janet Ahlberg and Allan Ahlberg
- Daily Prep – Prep for the first school day the night before! Have your child help pick out the clothes to wear for the first day of school. Pack his or her backpack together. Discuss lunch and snack options and pack their lunch box together.
- School Bus Safety – Another concern shared by many parents and children is about transportation to and from school. The website do2Learn helps children learn the rules of waiting for the bus, getting on the bus, riding on the bus, and getting off of the bus through fun songs as well as through free downloadable coloring books. If it is your child’s first time riding the bus, it may be a good idea to follow the bus to school or ride along the first day to make sure your child is adjusting well.
- Setbacks – Be prepared for everything to go wrong! Just breathe and do your best to make your child as comfortable as possible.
Although easing back-to-school for many families can require a lot of planning, the payoff is well worth it. The preparation and support you provide to your child today will allow him/her to make more choices and become increasingly independent sooner. I hope everyone has a wonderful school year!