Back to school time can cause anxiety and worry for caregivers of autistic children. Any time routines change, stress and behavior can occur. It’s important to prepare our children for upcoming changes well before they happen. Here are 5 tips for helping your child to get ready for school.
Purchase clothes for school early.
Wash them in your child’s detergent so they have a familiar smell. Sometimes, new clothes can feel ‘stiff’ or ‘crunchy.’ As a pediatric occupational therapist, I have heard many interesting ways to describe the feeling of new clothing. Practice getting clothes on and off in the morning to begin to establish a routine.
Set bedtime routines.
Begin to slowly change your child’s bedtime from the relaxed summer. Practice getting up early and going to bed early. This process can take up to two weeks to feel comfortable. I compare it to the daylight savings time. My body feels ‘off’ for a few weeks. Your child may even take more time to get used to the school sleep/wake schedule.
Allow your child to school shop with you.
Yes, it can be easier to purchase online but your child should be a part of the decision making process. He/she is more likely to use a pencil that is a comfortable weight, shape, and color. Don’t forget to purchase a planner or a scheduling book. Practice writing in the planner each day and before school starts.
If you can, go to school and walk through your child’s schedule.
This allows your child to familiarize himself with the smells, sights, and feelings that come when entering the classroom for the first time this year. Take pictures of your child’s desk, homeroom, locker, and anywhere he will go during the school day. Review the photos with your child each day and talk about worries, joys, or questions your child has about the school.
Ask for an extra set of books for home.
When you attend the IEP or 504 plan meetings, add the accommodation to have one set of books at home and another set at home. This can truly lessen your child’s stress at the end of the day when packing homework up.