The beginning of a new school year can be an exciting time. For others, it evokes more fear and worry than glee. For our children and students with ASD, A new school year can mean difficult transitions, loud noises, intimidating social situations, and unrealistic classroom demands. We want to set our little ones up for success as they start the new school year. Here are some tips you can start using right away!
5 Tips to Prepare Your Little One for School:
Use a visual calendar/schedule
Prepare a visual calendar or schedule of what to expect over the next few weeks. Depending on the level of the child, you can include pictures, text or both. Make sure to include fun, preferred activities (eg: swimming!) as well as less-preferred (eg: last day of camp).
Tip: We love using Choiceworks Calendar for this. Easy to use and program and kids love the visuals!
Visit the school before the first-day rush!
Most schools are happy to accommodate children who need a pre-school visit to help with the adjustment. During this visit, go see the child’s classroom, the lunchroom, their cubby/locker, and meet the teacher if possible. If they need more than one visit – go for it!
Tip: While you’re there, take pictures and turn it into a personalized social story!
Have a Reinforcement System in place
Antecedent strategies are SO important. Even though we plan for success, we also know that there will be challenges so keeping motivation high is key. Determine with your child what the expectations are for this school year (eg: do your homework, stay calm in the classroom, etc). Then, make sure you consider what’s in it for him/her to meet the expectations. This can look as natural as a behaviour contract for older students or more fun like a token board for younger students.
Tip: Whatever reinforcement system you use, make sure it’s meaningful and that you always follow through!
Practice makes perfect!
If you’re anticipating any difficult transitions, start practicing in the weeks before school actually starts. For example, if your child has difficulty with the morning routine, start implementing strategies early to make the transition smoother. Don’t wait until school tells you that there’s a problem! Anticipate the potential struggles and teach strategies in advance.
Tip: We like to teach these routines using role play. Kids also find it fun to switch roles – have the child be the mom and try to get you out of bed!
Communication is the key to success
Teachers and parents should set up an ongoing communication system where both successes and challenges are communicated between home and school. This is where we can catch potential problems before they hatch and how both environments can implement consistent strategies. For example, if the teacher found that having Johnny eat his whole lunch before he ate his snacks was helpful, she can relate this to mom!
Get a template of our communication log and promote daily positive home-school communication!