Starting a new school year is an exciting time but may also be an anxious time for students on the autism spectrum, as well as their parents and carers. Here are our top 10 tips for supporting students with the transition back to school.
- Support Understanding. Use visual supports and start reviewing any social story the school may have provided or photos of teachers/staff at the school before school returns.
- Practice getting ready for school – a couple of days before school starts you may want to practice waking up early, packing a school bag and trying on your uniform, wearing new school shoes in, practice opening lunch boxes and other containers. Make sure all of your child’s belongings are clearly labelled and that they can identify them.
- Visit the school in preparation – take your child to the school to help familiarise them with the surroundings.
- Practice talking about your holiday - Assist your child in practicing to talk about what they have down in the holidays so they can talk to their friends, print out a few photos from your break to prompt your child if this will help.
- Meet with your child’s new teacher before the start of the school year to provide them with information about your child’s preferences. It is important to work in partnership with your child’s school.
- Establish a going to school routine – this might include a social story about getting ready each morning or the use of a visual routine. You may want to create a breakfast ritual or a special exercise you can each morning.
- Invest in a pair of noise cancelling headphones – if you have a child with sensory sensitivities, consider investing in a pair of headphones that the child can take to school.
- Practice coping and calming skills - Consider what helps them feel safe and comfortable and allow your child to take an item from home to provide comfort – this might be a fidget toy or somethings else that has been discussed with the school
- Be organised – the more prepared and organised you are for the first day of school, the less anxiety you and your child will experience on the first day. And plan ahead for disruptions, including wet weather, traffic or your child’s teacher or friend not being present on the first day.
- Offer opportunities for expression and foster connection - Consider picture books about first days of school or arrange for your child to chat with an older sibling, relative or friend that may go to the same school about what it is like.
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Very little is known about how autism is understood and supported in culturally and linguistically diverse communities, including First Nations People.