You’re nervous about your autistic child starting a new school year. You worry about whether they’ll thrive in the new environment, whether the teacher will be successful in building the connection your child so desperately needs to foster a conducive learning environment.
Here’s a back-to-school prep checklist for autistic children.
- Talk up the positives of going back to school. Because children with ASD have trouble making and keeping friends, a new environment can cause extreme anxiety. Connect with fellow parents before school begins. Give your child a chance to create some social connections in advance.
- Stock up on snacks and lunch supplies. Running to the store in a frenzy during the first few weeks of the new school year won’t help you or your child. Have enough supplies on hand to make it through the first two weeks, so you can spend more time helping your child transition.
- Prepare visual cues. Autistic children rely heavily on visual cues. Make flashcards or print photos your child can relate to in order to facilitate communication. Your child’s teacher is then armed with a familiar tool to help her communicate with your child.
- Meet with the teacher. This is especially important if your child has a new teacher, but it’s a good idea regardless. Make sure the teacher is aware of any changes to your child’s habits or routines, any new challenges you’ve encountered over the summer and anything else she needs to know.
- Create a visual calendar. Get your child acquainted with the day-to-day schedules they’ll be exposed to at school, including what days of the week they’ll have different classes or special events. Use visuals and photos to demonstrate each event so your child can refer and understand easily.
- Change bedtimes in advance. If your child will soon be getting up earlier to get to school, start adjusting bedtime a few weeks in advance. This ensures your child has enough rest for attention and focus, while reducing the number of changes happening simultaneously.
- Coordinate therapy schedules. Often, autistic children have daytime therapy schedules during the summer. During the school year, it can be difficult to find an open time slot outside of school hours—so get on a waiting list as soon as possible.
Preparing your child, supplies and materials, and schedules for the start of a new school year gets both you and your child off on the right foot. A positive start to the school year sets the stage for your child’s success, so use this checklist to get things in order. What’s on your back-to-school checklist?