Knowing how to prepare a child with autism for starting school can be a stressful experience. You’re uncertain about how they will handle the transition, but there are things you can do leading into the beginning of school that will make your child better prepared for the change.
Routine Is Important
Most children with autism thrive off routine and beginning school can throw off the routine they’ve known for their entire life. It’s important to begin helping them familiarize with a new routine before they start attending school every day.
The best way to create a natural transition is to begin your routine for a school day when your child is still weeks away from the first day of school. At that time, start to wake them up at whatever time will be necessary to get them to school.
Feed them breakfast, get them dressed and do any other activities at the same time you would if it was a school day. This helps the child mentally prepare for the routine of a normal school day. Weekends and holidays can throw this off after the school year begins, but it makes the transition to a new routine easier for the child because it increases familiarity.
Talk About School With The Child
The more your child hears and thinks about school, the more they will be ready for the transition. Your child will have new supplies for when they begin school, so it’s a good idea to start sitting those around the house for them to become familiar with.
If the school requires uniforms, have your child wear the uniform around the house for a day to get accustomed to it. If they’ll have a backpack or lunchbox to go with them, sit those around the house and allow the child to see them.
You can also help them get comfortable with the classroom setting. Parents can read books and show pictures to their children about what it looks like to go to school, sit at a desk and listen to the teacher. Educating your child two weeks before they begin school increases the chances that the information will stick with them and make the transition easier. Any extra bit of familiarity is important as you prepare a child with autism for starting school.
At BASS, we also try to replicate this atmosphere for the children at our centers. We have circle time each day, which creates a school setting. It encourages social interaction and aims to get the child comfortable in a school-like setting to ease the transition.
Explore The School
If possible, it’s a good idea to spend time with your child’s teacher before the start of the school year. This helps all parties involved, increasing the comfort level of family members, the child and the teacher.
The teacher gets to meet you and your child. The child gets to meet their teacher for the first time, which should help them get comfortable quicker. It also gives you a chance to meet with the teacher about any special requests that could be necessary before the school year begins.
While at the school, take some pictures. This will help you build a visual library for your child to look at before school begins. Take pictures of the classroom, the hallways, the playground, the bathroom and any other common areas your child could encounter.
Have a picnic on the playground if you have access to it. Any added familiarity for your child will make the transition much easier.
BASS aims to help your child seamlessly transition into school in Gainesville, Ocala, St. Petersburg and Tampa. Contact us to learn more about our services.