The start of a new school year is stressful for families of children with autism. Changes to the environment can be especially disturbing for some autistic kids, and parents are wracked with nerves and guilt over how well they’ll adapt to the new situation, new teachers, and new classmates.
There are some things you can do to help prepare your autistic child for the upcoming changes.
Take a Walk-Through of the School Before the First Day
Autistic children have a difficult time with transitions, so preparing them for changes in advance is helpful. Visit the school before the first day to give your child time to become familiar with the surroundings.
Where will he be sitting? Who will be his teacher for the year? If possible, try to build connections with familiarities – if your child will have some of the same classmates, eat lunch in a familiar cafeteria, or will be in the same room as last year.
Have a Clear Schedule
Autistic children thrive on routine. In the weeks and days leading up to the start of the school year, start following a similar schedule your child will have in the classroom. Is there time dedicated to reading?
Have lunch at the same time your child will eat at school, have your child work on math or reading, computer time, or free play at the same times of day. This will require some communication with your child’s teacher, but most educators are more than willing to work with you to aid in transitioning.
Create an “About Me” Portfolio
Help your child and your child’s teacher get to know each other. Because some autistic children have trouble communicating, create something that showcases your child’s strengths.
If your child is a visual communicator, have her put together pictures and draw images that represent things about her that the teacher should know. Have the teacher do the same to help your child feel comfortable with this new, strange person with whom she’ll be spending the majority of the day.
Transitioning to school from summer successfully is about making your child comfortable. Try to build familiarity for your child’s comfort, and gradually work into new routines for a smooth transition. How do you help your autistic child transition to new routines at the start of the school year?