13 Tips for Helping Your Child with Autism Prepare for Back to School

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • It is hard to believe that it is already time to start thinking about back-to-school. But August is upon us and that means, in a few short weeks, children all over the country will be getting up early, climbing on buses and heading back to school. For children with autism, this transition can be rough. You can make it easier by preparing ahead of time and starting to get into back-to-school mode in August. The following tips can help.


    Reintroduce daily routines


    If your child has been staying up later at night and sleeping in each morning, slowly start moving toward school time schedules. Slowly move bedtime back to where it is during the school year and wake your child up a bit earlier. Each week, move closer to the regular routine. Pack your child’s lunch in his lunchbox or a brown bag. Let him practice opening the lunch and eating out of the lunchbox. By the time school begins, he should be back on track.

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    Set aside reading time


    If your child hasn’t been reading throughout the summer, now is the time. Set aside time each day for reading. For younger children, take the time to read books together as well as giving them time to quietly look through the books. For older children, set aside a specific time for them to quietly read. Make sure to ask questions about what they are reading to help with reading comprehension skills.


    Create a back-to-school book


    Gather up information on the upcoming school year, including the name of your child’s new teacher, the room number and any classmates he might know. Add pictures whenever possible. You can add pictures of the school, cafeteria, library and recess yard. Include a map of the school, with the new classroom clearly marked. Use colored pencils or markers to show how to get to lavatories, the school nurse, the cafeteria and other places your child might visit. If you can, visit the school together to take pictures to add to the book.


    Plan a visit


    Teachers and school administrators usually start back to school, at least part time, in early to mid August, depending on the school district. Contact your school district and schedule a time for you and your child to visit, even if he is returning to the same school. Take time to walk through a typical school day for your child. Meet the new teacher. Have your child spend time in the new classroom to get adjusted without any other children.


    Talk about problem areas


    If your child normally has a problem coping with the noise of the lunchroom or not knowing what to do during recess, talk about these issues and come up with a plan of action. You can use social stories to help. Contact your child’s teacher to share your plan of action and ask for their help in carrying through during problem times.


    Review your Section 504 or IEP


    If you already have a Section 504 or IEP in place, take time to review it. Arrange to meet with the new teacher to go over any accommodations and answer any questions the teacher might have. Talk about any concerns you might have about the upcoming school year.


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    Get together with classmates


    If some of your child’s classmates are going to be in the same class, contact one or two to try to have the children get together before school begins. Your child might feel more comfortable the first day of school if he knows his friend will be there with him.


    Keep a countdown calendar


    Create a countdown calendar and keep it in a place where your child can see it every day. Let your child mark off each day and count how many days are left of summer.


    Remind your child that you are there for him


    If your child is nervous or anxious, remind him that this is normal, that many people are scared of starting a new school year. Let him know that you are there to support him and love him no matter what happens.


    Accentuate the positive


    Talk about the fun parts of school, the new teacher and the friends he will make. While you don’t want to make everything sound rosy, you do want to focus on the positive aspects of school and remind your child of what he liked about the previous year.


    Start introducing back to school supplies


    You don’t want to overwhelm your child by handing him a new backpack, lunchbox, pens, pencils, notebooks, etc. all at once. Instead, start several weeks before school starts and slowly introduce your child to the new items. Give him time to get used to the new items.


    Practice routines


    Take time to practice routines, such as walking to the bus stop, getting ready for school in the morning, eating lunch from his lunch box, packing up his backpack. Think about other routines that caused problems in the past and practice these each day.


    Review appropriate behaviors


    Even if your child has been in school in previous years, take time to review appropriate social behaviors, how to behave while the teacher is talking and how to treat classmates.


Published On: July 30, 2014