Parent Tips: Back to School

By Shelly Allred, Pathfinders for Autism

What parent doesn’t love that Staples commercial that so cleverly uses the well known Christmas carol, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” with the parent who is celebrating that the kids are going back to school? While it may be a celebration for some parents, some of us worry about the transition for our kids, and the stress they may be feeling about a new class, new friends, and maybe even a new school. So let’s prepare now to help make that first day back to school a great (or tolerable if that’s your realistic hope) experience.
kids and school bus

Treat the first day of school like a holiday
Build up excitement for the first day of school like you do for Christmas or your child’s birthday. Circle it on the calendar, count down the days, pick out a special outfit (or item the child can take to school), and plan a celebration for that afternoon or evening. Encourage your child to participate in buying school supplies and let her help pick her materials. After all, who wants to be forced to carry around a High School Musical binder when your heart belongs to The Jonas Brothers?

Visit the school
Show your child his classroom and even his locker and desk if possible. If you go before the classroom is set up, go back closer to the first day so that your child will have a chance to see how the class will look when he gets there that first day. Take a walk through the halls practicing the routes he will travel to the various classes. While you’re there, take pictures that your child can refer to back at home. If this is a new school for your child, you may also want to consider visiting the child’s previous school and reinforcing the message that he’s not changing schools because people at the old school didn’t want him. Sometimes our kids have anxieties over these feelings, but they aren’t able to articulate those fears.

Meet with the teacher and inclusion helper
Ask for a copy of a typical day’s schedule so that you can prepare your child with social stories, visual schedules and discussions. Let the teacher meet your child and go over your child’s reactions, learning styles, favorite things, and what challenges and frustrates your child. Make sure you share with the teacher systems that work for you at home. If you have charts or tools you use at home, offer a duplicate set for the classroom for consistency for your child. Ask the teacher if you may take a picture of her to have at home so that her face will be even more familiar to your child on that first day.

Make an All About Me book
A portfolio of pictures, stories, favorite things and anything else the child feels is important to share with other students and teachers could be a great tool for introducing your child.

Play school
Go through typical school activities, practice walking up to school, unpacking, taking jackets on and off, walking quietly through a hallway. Keep them used to the feeling of “school” even if it’s at home.

Reset the clocks
If you’ve allowed your child to stay up later during the summer, start rolling back bedtime now so that when school starts your child will have an easier time falling into the new schedule.

Use an alarm clock to wake the child
Let’s face it – how many kids want to get up for school? Let the alarm clock be the “bad guy” waking your child, not you. Consider using a CD player/clock combo so that your child can wake to his favorite song rather than a buzzing noise.

Make sure your child’s IEP is up to date
If you haven’t looked at your child’s IEP since your last annual meeting, go through it and make sure that the goals and accommodations listed are still relevant. Have your child’s needs changed since your last meeting? Has she met some of the goals listed and is now ready to take on new challenges? Remember, you don’t have to wait for an annual meeting – you can request an IEP meeting at ANY time.

Get your paperwork organized
While you’re thinking about organizing new binders, paper and pencils, take a moment to evaluate if your own paperwork is in order. If you don’t already have a system in place, download our Guide to Organizing Your Paperwork.

More back to school tips for both parents and teachers:
Back to School Tips

©2009 Pathfinders for Autism

Attached file:
Back to School.pdf

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