The first day of school is a huge milestone for both you and your child. Each year brings new teachers, settings, students, and activities. For children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), the first day of school may be slightly overwhelming or even a little frightening. Here are a few key ways to relieve any stress or anxiousness about the first day, and make school an exciting experience for your child:
Introduce a Routine/Schedule
Children with ASD often favor having a set routine or schedule. The structure of a routine can help your child adapt to daily activities and create a sense of independence that can be extremely helpful later on in life. As the school year approaches, begin to introduce school related routines into your child’s schedule slowly. This could consist of activities such as set sleep and wake up times or eating patterns (i.e., breakfast and lunch).
Get Familiar With the Classroom & Teachers
You’ll want to make sure you and your child are familiar with any teachers, staff, or classroom aids that they’ll be interacting with. Setting a meeting before the first day gives to the opportunity to ask any questions or address any concerns that you might have while assisting your child in becoming comfortable with their new teacher and other staff members. This will also help you, as the parent, become familiar with your child’s new setting and those surrounding it. Inform teachers and staff of specific skill sets of communication methods that your child has. Additionally, the classroom, in general, is a new setting for your child; taking a classroom visit prior to the start of school will ease the transition.
Share Social Stories
Sharing social stories is an effective way to spark an interest in school while easing any fears. A social story is a short descriptive story of a specific event; it can be used to prepare your child for new events and what to expect during their time in school. Share stories of your childhood and school experience, highlighting the things and activities that you enjoyed the most. Help your child visualize what’s ahead and reduce any stress or anxiety.
Prepare Necessities and Materials Beforehand
To have a successful routine, as well as a smooth transition, there is a certain amount of preparation necessary. Before the first day, and the days to follow, prepare the necessities and materials ahead of time. Organize school clothes or uniforms, pack lunches and snacks, and ensure all homework or other activities are packed up and ready to go. This proves for an easy transition from home to school and keeps your child prepared for his or her day.