Back to School for Children with Autism
Are you ready for school bells to ring? Get ready, parents; the school bells will be ringing soon, summoning your child with autism back to school. We are all aware that students face challenges and uncertainties as the new school year approaches. ABS Kids hopes to offer you some helpful suggestions as you prepare your child for those first few days of school.
- Before the first day of school, try to meet with your child's teacher.
If your child is returning to the same teacher, the meeting can be brief as they know your child; however, you will want to discuss your child's challenges and strengths if it is a change of teachers. Let them know of any challenges or successes that have occurred over the summer months and discuss how to integrate new skills into the classroom.
- Meet with key staff members.
Before the first day, meeting with your school counselor, speech therapist, and other key personnel will help the staff understand you have a keen interest in being a part of the team. It will also provide you the opportunity to share critical information about your child. Establish a time to discuss the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and any modifications or accommodations that could help your child be successful in the classroom environment. Do not hesitate to give them your phone number and email address so they can easily connect with you in the future.
- Walk through the school facilities with your child
Prepare your child days before you plan to visit the school. You might mark each day on the calendar. When the day arrives, present a relaxed and happy demeanor to your child and explain what your school visit will entail. You will want to visit the office, library, classroom, bathroom, the playground, and any other area your child may spend time during the upcoming year.
- Buy a unique calendar to have a "count down."
Take your child to a store where you can find a suitable calendar and let them choose one that suits their needs. Allow your child to select three of their favorite felt pen colors. One will be for miscellaneous, another for marking off days until the school tour, and the third for marking off the days before school starts. You can decide how soon before the major event you want to mark off the days. For example, you might want to choose a week for the school tour. Try to schedule the "mark-offs" at the same time each day, such as after dinner. You might have your child invite the family and make it a celebration. Have your child get the magic marker from where they have stored it. Ask your child what color they are using. Depending on your child's age and ability level, you might have them count how many days have been marked and how many days are left to be marked. Create a variety of tasks and pleasurable activities to intermix on the calendar; make it fun.
- Let's go shopping!
When you first start developing your calendar, you might also want to add a date to take your child to a store to buy crayons, pencils, and all of the necessary school supplies. You might also want to add a day to shop for new clothes and shoes. Of course, your child’s sensory needs may impact your clothing selections. Having choices and finding items that the child identifies with is so important; empower them with facilitated choice throughout the process - providing limited options and some autonomy. If you and your family are up for it, maybe you'd like to have your child choose different nights before school opens to model all of their new clothes. Decide based on your knowledge of your child which activities will be most successful.
Most likely, you have some anxiety yourself. As you work to manage it, for your benefit and the benefit of your child, remember all the positive things the new school year may bring. Self-care is important and finding decompression activities will be beneficial as a caregiver. Equally important is surrounding yourself with supports. Please reach out to your dedicated Behavior Analyst if there is anything we can discuss that may support you and your family get ready for back to school! Check out this helpful YouTube video if you’re looking for more awesome tips for back to school!