Five Tips for Easing Your Child's Transition Back to School
Remember that old back to school commercial with the mom floating down the aisle of the office supplies store while the holiday classic "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" played? I never really appreciated that commercial until I became a parent and prepared to send my own child back to school after a long summer break.
For some children, heading back to school can bring up feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. Here are a few ways to better prepare your child with Special Needs.
1. School visit
During the weeks leading up to the first day, many teachers can be found setting up their classrooms and are often happy to receive visits and even some help from students. Walking around the school, seeing the classroom, where he or she will sit, and getting to know the teacher is a great way to alleviate some anticipatory anxiety.
2. Write a Social Story
While visiting the school, take photos of your child with the teacher, in the cafeteria, on the playground, etc. Then you can use these photos to create a more relatable social story. "At recess, I will go play on the playground" and include a photo of your child on the actual monkey bars!
3. Plan a date with a classmate
Most schools post class lists in advance of the beginning of school. Even if it’s just meeting another family at the park for an hour, this is a great way to get acquainted with a new classmate or reacquainted with an old one.
4. Shop for school supplies together
Letting your child pick out her school supplies might help her feel proud of her utensils and feel reminded that she'll have items that are exclusively hers in the classroom. One more expectation to be met!
5. Write a story for the other kids
If your child will be spending time in the general education (mainstream) environment, it might be helpful for his typically developing peers to understand a bit about your child. This book can be a very basic introduction to your child.
In the book include some things about your child that makes him unique and all the things that make him just like the other kids (i.e favorite food is pizza, loves to swim and play Minecraft, etc).
You may also want to include a page about some things that are difficult for your child:
"I'm a smart girl, but some things are hard for me. I have very low muscle tone and that makes it harder for me to run, climb, talk, and write. I try really hard and I'm getting better all the time. I might need your help sometimes. Do you think you can help me?"
This book will may also be for the parents of your child's peers to help them explain your child's differences to their own kids.
Transition is hard for our kids. Hopefully these tricks and tips will help you and your child ease right into the beginning of a (hopefully) successful school year!
How do you transition your child back to school? Please share in the comments below.
Dani Gillman is Cofounder and Head of Marketing at Birdhouse– a Detroit-based startup empowering parents raising children with special needs to learn more about their children through a behavior journaling app for iPhone, Android and the web. She’s also mom to a 11 year old daughter (who happens to have Autism) and a 2 year old son (who doesn’t appreciate naps as much as his mother does).