September brings with it a bustle unlike any other – it is time to head back to school.
As a parent, one half of you is jubilant at the thought of the extra hours you will now have to yourself when your kids are off at school in the care of their teachers. But the other half feels a sense of trepidation and worry for your child. Will they have to learn to readjust to school all over again? What challenges will this settling present? Here are some back to school tips for parents with children who have autism or related disorders.
- Review what to expect: Remind the child of what happens during their school day. Show them photos of the school, classroom, teachers, and other students to familiarize them. Discuss each step of the day by creating a visual schedule.
- Pick up school supplies: Get the new school gear ready well in advance. Let the child get used to their new school supplies. Make sure the backpack is comfortable enough for them by letting them use it on outings and allow the child to help pick out their new backpack or lunch bag.
- Keep contact information cards ready: Be sure you have a contact information card and emergency numbers ready in your child’s back to school kit. Details on allergies and other key medical information needs to be included on this.
- Get back into the school schedule: Start to shape the morning routine by waking up at school day times again. Set alarms, bathe and have breakfast as you would on a normal school day for the week before school reopens. If your child takes a school bus to school, actually walk up to the bus stop each morning.
- Meet the teacher before opening day: As your child moves into the care of a new teacher, both sides will need to learn to get comfortable with each other. Teachers are usually back in school a few days ahead of the beginning of term for the kids. Make an appointment to meet with your child’s teacher so you can update them on any changes/progress or new challenges in advance. During your visit take photos of the school and the areas your child is likely to need to navigate, to go over with your child at home.
- Take your child along to school for a pre-opening day visit: Help reorient him or her with school once more. Introduce the child to their new teacher. Show them their locker and how to open and close it. Show them the way to the cafeteria. Explain how to get a drink from a vending machine. Practice it all once in advance minus the hordes that will come in when school actually begins. This will make it marginally less daunting and will help them revisit the skills they need for school. If the school does not permit visits before they reopen, then drive by school, park nearby and walk around outside instead pointing out things from the outside.
Be sure to give yourself a little extra time and leeway during the first few weeks. Things may take longer than you want them to or expect them to, so it helps if you buffer in some extra time. That way you will emerge at the end of the first school month without too much trouble, and your kids should be reasonably well settled in by then too.
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