The start of a new school year can be stressful for students with autism, especially if it includes moving to a new classroom, meeting a new teacher, or starting a new school.
Transition strategies can reduce anxiety among kids and their parents, and increase appropriate behavior to help students get a positive start to the new year.
Kimberlee Rutan McCafferty, mother of 2 sons with ASD and author of Raising Autism: Surviving the Early Years, offers 17 tips for transitioning back to school. The first four tips are listed below; to read more visit Autism Speaks.
- Talk to your child frequently about what to expect in the upcoming year. It’s the simplest tip, and perhaps the most important one to help reduce your child’s anxiety.
- Cross days off on your calendar. Some children may have anxiety about when the school year begins. Simply crossing days off the calendar may help your child better understand when the school year starts.
- Create a new morning routine and practice it prior to the start of the school year. Begin waking up your child a little earlier each morning so that he or she is acclimated to the new wake-up time way before that big first day. Do a few “run-throughs” near the end of summer vacation so your child knows what to expect in the time before leaving for school. If your child responds well to visual schedules, you might create one outlining everything from getting dressed to going on the bus.
- Take a tour of the school. (Take advantage of a school-scheduled walk-through for students or call the school to schedule time.) You may not get to meet your child’s new teacher(s), but at least your child will become familiar with the building prior to attending. When you are on your tour, visit the main office, bathrooms, playground, and any room your child may spend time in during the coming year.