Eight Tips to Minimize Back to School Stress for Children With Autism
By: Jennifer Godwin, M.Ed., BCBA, VP of Program and Clinical Services
Preparing children for the start of school can be stressful and this time of year can present additional concerns and fears for children with autism. The good news is a little preparation can help your child address any issues in advance of the first day.
Here are eight tips to help ensure your child has a successful start to the school year.
- Take pictures of the school, class room, teachers and the bus driver so your child will be familiar with their new surroundings.
- Schedule a visit to the school prior to the first day so your child can visit his/her new classroom. Most schools have a back to school night but they can be crowded and loud. Reach out to your child’s teacher to see if an alternative time can be arranged for your child to visit the school and classroom.
- Read books or watch videos about going back to school. Model Me Kids is an excellent video series developed for kids with autism and books like First Day Jitters, Pete the Cat: Rocking my School Shoes and Follow the Line to School are also great resources.
- If your child’s classmates are not familiar with autism, you may want to encourage the teacher to read books to the class like My Brother Charlie and Since We Are Friends.
- Once you learn your child’s classroom assignment, consider asking the teacher to provide your name and email to the parents of your child’s classmates and request the opportunity for your child to meet classmates in advance of the first day.
- The night before the big first day, plan your child’s breakfast, pick out clothes and pack the backpack to help minimize stress the next morning.
- Communicate with your child’s teacher about your child’s preferences, sleep issues or anything else you think is relevant and will help the teacher better work with your child.
- If your teacher does not have a daily communication log, suggest starting one so you can easily communicate back and forth.
The first day of school can be intimidating, but with some preparation, you can hopefully turn any fears into excitement. If you see changes in your child’s behavior after starting school, please discuss any concerns with your therapist. Good luck and I hope you and your child have a productive school year!