Hi, it’s your girl Dr. Alisha Griffith, affectionately known as “Dr. Ali.” I am your autism parenting strategist and ignite coach. I help autism moms, mompreneurs, and aspiring mompreneurs, to shift through the feelings of overwhelm, frustration, and stress, and move towards making bold, brave power moves so you can ignite the results you want and live that ultimate dream life you desire.
We’re wrapping up the end of August, which could only mean one thing: it’s BACK TO SCHOOL season! Now if you’re an autism (or special needs) mom like me, you might be kind of losing it right now. School can be incredibly challenging and stressful for us and our children since they have different needs and anxieties than other children. Going to school means having to adjust to an entirely new schedule, new people, new environments, new structures, etc. Without the right preparation going back to school can pretty much guarantee meltdowns are going to happen.
So today I wanted to share with you 5 Au-mazing Tips for Your Back to School Transition. These are my tried and tested strategies that I have used with my own son Zachary (who is on the autism spectrum) to make transitioning back into school go SO much easier and to reduce as much uncertainty for him as possible. You can use these if your child is going to school for the first time, if they’re going to a new classroom, or even if they’re going to an entirely new school. If your child has already gone back to school and they still haven’t quite adjusted, you can definitely use these tips too!
Tip #1: Provide a Visual of the School
It’s important that your child has an idea of what to expect for school – whether they’re going for the first time, they’re going to a new school, or they just need a reminder what their current school is like. So on top of simply explaining to them what to expect, you need to SHOW them. Look at pamphlets, pictures, videos, maps, etc. Show them what their school looks like, what their classroom looks like, what their bus stop looks like. Walkthrough where everything is and get them familiar what it’s like where they’re going. Even go TO the school so they can see it in person. If it’s possible to tour their building and classroom before school starts, even better!
Tip #2: Create a Mock School Routine.
One thing that is essential for making the back to school transition easier is to start practicing your school routine BEFORE school even starts. Create a new morning routine for your child that will follow exactly what they’ll be doing each morning before school, and get in the habit of doing it a few weeks prior to their start day. Make it as close to the school morning routine as possible – from the time they’ll wake up, to getting dressed, to brushing their teeth, to combing their hair, to eating breakfast, to getting their backpack ready. They sooner you can start implementing the mock routine, the less stress you and your child will experience once you have to start doing it for real. It makes getting in the routine more gradual rather than abruptly changing the schedule they’ve gotten used to over the summer.
Tip #3: Meet the Teachers as Soon as Possible.
Another thing that I always do to help Zachary and myself is to meet the teachers BEFORE school starts. Usually there’s some sort of open house or meet the teacher event – make sure to attend those if you can! Meet the teachers, the counselors, the therapists, even the gym teacher. Try and meet everyone who will be involved in your child’s learning. Not only does it give you a chance to discuss expectations for your child for the year, but it will also help your child get more familiar with them prior to working with them, and then they won’t seem like total strangers come the first day of school. Plus, it also establishes a connection between your child and the teacher, and will hopefully even get your kiddo excited to go to school and spend time with them!
Tip #4: Keep One Thing Consistent.
Whether your child is starting school for the first time, if they’re going to a new classroom, a new school, etc., keep one thing that was consistent in their life BEFORE this change. Maybe they’re in a new environment with new people, but they’ll still have the same backpack from last year, or the same lunchbox, or the pencil bag. You can even send them with their favorite sensory or fidget toy. Just make sure to send them with something that they’re used to and familiar with that will bring them comfort in this totally UNfamiliar environment.
Tip #5: Send a Love Note with Them.
Once they finally make it to school and you’ve done all your prep work to get them as ready as you possibly can – try sending a little love note with them to school. I like to put love notes in Zachary’s lunchbox from time to time. It’s just a nice little reminder for them that you love them, your thinking about them, and that you’re there with them in spirit. You can send them as often as you want! Try sending them everyday for the first week or so, and then you can taper them off if you wish. They’ll help your child to not feel so alone and bring them comfort when they’re starting to feel overwhelmed.
So those were five of my au-mazing tips on how to successfully transition back to school with your special needs child. If you’ve used these tips before, or if you have other tips the other autism moms can benefit from definitely leave a comment and let me know! Until next time, it’s ya girl Dr. Ali signing off with a reminder to be au-mazing in your thoughts, your words, and your actions.
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