Going back to school can be a stressful time for any children, but, for kids with autism, the anxiety levels can be raised to meltdown-inducing levels.
A change in routine from the summer holidays, a new timetable to adhere to, a new school uniform to get used to… these can all upset kids on the spectrum and leave parents wondering how to cope.
Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do to help make the return to school as smooth as possible for your children.
Make sure to talk about the idea of ‘school’ as often as possible. Let your child know that going to school or returning to school is something that is happening very soon. You could even create a visual aid to tick off the number of days left until school starts.
Preparing your child in advance for their school experience is a really useful plan. From visiting a new school in advance or even having a look at a new classroom, to meeting a new teacher in person before school starts – these are all great ways to lower anxiety levels in your child before they return to school.
Depending on your child’s requirements, it may be worth creating a document to explain their communication needs, skills, triggers and things they really enjoy and pass this to the teacher or headteacher in advance. Also, see if the school has a layout, walkthrough or photos that will help your children to prepare themselves visually for their school experience.
Fixing new routines in place will help your child become more comfortable, more quickly, with school life. This could be anything from using the same route to school every time, to matching their favourite packed lunches to specific days of the week.
Organise their school bag in advance to make sure your child is happy everything is there and in the place they’re expecting it to be. This will save them worrying in advance or panicking when they try to find something.
For high school or college students, it can be a good idea to write up your child’s weekly timetable and pin it up in their room so they can see exactly what classes and teachers they have each day.
Jen Parry from our ATAS team passed on this great tip to cope if your child refuses to have their feet measured when buying school shoes.
To avoid the stress of taking them to the shoe shop and having a meltdown, you can draw around your child’s foot on a piece of paper and then measure the picture of the foot, rather than the foot itself.
A potentially stressful process has suddenly been made fun and your child may even want to colour the picture in afterwards. You can then put the date and size on the picture and pin it to your fridge, to compare the next time you need to buy them shoes.
Once you have the feet measurements, you can go onto a website such as Clarks or even use Google to find a conversion tool from millimetres into the correct UK shoe size. Then you can go along and buy shoes from your favourite shop or order them online, completely stress free.
Remember, children spend a huge part of their youth at school and teachers as well as parents want this time to be as happy and stress-free as possible. Hopefully our tips will prove helpful in making their return to school a breeze.
Do you have any tips of your own? Please do share them with us via our Facebook page.