Summer vacation has come to an end and a new school year is underway. This is an exciting time for many children and families but can also bear a lot of feelings of anxiousness. There are many unknowns of each school year. New classrooms, new friends, new teachers, or maybe an entirely new school. The more prepared we are to tackle the school year, the less anxiety your child may experience. So, how can we help our children prepare?
As a first step, allow your child to partake in shopping for their school supplies. Your child could assist in picking out their favorite colors or styles of supplies and may even enjoy checking items off a list. If you feel your child may be overwhelmed by a vast array of options, select a few items that you think they would like and give them a choice. For example, if your child likes Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Minions, or Paw Patrol, show them 3 backpacks and let them make the final decision.
For some, their backpacks are full of additional items that they may have to take to school. Things like an augmentative communication device and additional therapy supplies can significantly increase the weight of a backpack. Some children benefit from having a rolling backpack versus a traditional backpack which may cause stress to their bodies. Rolling backpacks are also a great tool to help your child get accustomed to being responsible for their own belongings when it comes to traveling. Some schools may have a policy against rolling backpacks. However, if you feel this is what’s best for your child, you may request that the use of a rolling backpack be included in the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) if they have one.
Some children find it helpful to prepare for the new school year by listening to a social story. Obtain permission from your child’s school to take pictures of the campus and staff and create a social story individualized to your child’s day. Repeated exposure to the pictures may help your child feel more comfortable with their school setting. You may even consider including photographs of your child’s educators and therapists in their augmentative communication device if they use one.
Practicing for the school year can be a tremendous help for your child and can create less of a rushed feeling if your child is aware of the school morning expectations. For instance, a few weeks before school starts, begin waking your child at the time they will need to be up for school. If you drive your child to school, do a mock drive to the school so that your child becomes familiar with the routine.
Take some time to sit down and create a profile of your student. It’s very important to make sure the individuals involved in your child’s education are working with you as a team. Don’t hesitate to involve any professionals outside of the school, like their speech therapist for example, in team meetings. The more everyone works together, the more successful the year will be. This can help your child’s educators become familiar with your child and their needs in greater detail outside of their Individualized Education Program or 504. The Friendship Circle of Michigan offers this article about creating a teacher information packet.
If possible, request to meet with your child’s teacher prior to meet the teacher night. Some schools can be hectic on these evenings, and this will allow your child to meet their teacher in a more relaxed state. As the school year progresses, make sure to keep any therapists, educators and team members informed of what is occurring in your child’s journey.
AZA United's Family Support Team provides support and guidance for families facing any number of challenges as they navigate the Autism journey. This service is available at no charge to all members of the autism and developmental disability community. You may make a phone appointment that works with your schedule by visiting azaunited.org/supportcall
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