The beginning of a new school year is an exciting yet anxious time for both parents and children. It typically brings a change in the daily routine established over the holiday season. This transition can be especially challenging for families with children on the autism spectrum. While change can be difficult, the following tips will help prepare a child with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) for the new school year and make the transition back to school easier.
- Prepare and reintroduce routines.
Familiarise and reintroduce your child to the school setting. This may mean bringing your child to the school or classroom, showing your child a picture of their teacher and any classmates, or meeting the teacher before the first day of school. Driving by the school several times is another good idea.
- Expect the unexpected.
Parents cannot anticipate everything that might happen during the school day. Allow more time for all activities during the first week of school. Prepare your child for situations that may not go as planned. Discuss a plan of action for free time, such as lunch and recess. Use social stories to familiarise your child with routines and how to respond when an unexpected event occurs.
- Review and teach social expectations.
Although many children may transition easily between the social demands of holiday activities and those required in the classroom, children on the autism spectrum may need more clear-cut (and literal) reminders. Review the “dos and don’ts” of acceptable school behaviour. You can also create a schedule of a typical school day by using pictures and talking about how the school day will progress.
Rehearse new activities. Ask the teacher what new activities are planned for the first few weeks. Then, prepare your child by performing, practising, and discussing them. This rehearsal will reduce anxiety when new activities take place at the beginning of school.
In summary, do everything possible to help reduce the stress level for your child and family during this transition time. Don’t forget to prepare yourself! A calm and collected parent is better able to help their child make a successful transition back to school.
BA Speech and Hearing Therapy (WITS)
Master’s in early childhood Intervention (UP)
PhD Candidate (UP)