For many children with special needs, the transition of heading back to school at the start of a new school year can be difficult. Many students have gotten used to the new normal of staying up a little bit later, the absence of homework, and relaxed schedules that so often accompany the weeks of summer, and coming back to a classroom often takes time to readjust.
Here at Innovative Behavior Options, we see these difficulties with transition with many of our ABA therapy patients, and to help, we wanted to share a list of steps that might help parents and caregivers as they ease their children back into the swing of things this school year.
Create a Morning Routine
Create a new morning routine and practice it a few weeks out to the start of the school year. Begin waking your child up a little earlier each morning so that he or she is used to the new wake-up time before the first day. Additionally, plan a few times where you do a “dress rehearsal” near the end of summer so your child knows what to expect before heading off for school.
Make a Visual Schedule
The morning routine can feed right into another helpful item for transitions, a visual schedule. You can start a visual schedule at home that includes every step, from getting dressed and brushing teeth to getting on the bus. And while you may not yet know the exact routine he or she will have at school, walking through even part of the regular day might help ease any fear or anxiety. If possible, reach out to your child’s case manager for a daily schedule, and when you make your classroom visit, follow the schedule.
Take a Tour of the School
Often, many schools will allow children with special needs the opportunity to tour the school during off-hours of the regular meet-and-greet, which might be overwhelming. Ask if you’re able to meet your child’s teacher(s) and any other administrators that your child might be working with during the year. While on the tour, visit the main office, bathrooms, gym, lunch room, library and playground so your child has the ability to see all the places they may spend time during the upcoming year.
While on your school tour, take pictures of all the locations within the hallways and classrooms and incorporate them into a social story so that you and your child can review it together before they officially start the new school year.
Talk About the Fun Things at School
Get your child excited about attending school by talking up all the fun things they’ll get to do. Mention new friends and new opportunities for reading, writing, creating art, or whatever specifically they enjoy doing. By focusing on the positive things, they’ll have the right mindset as they head into the classroom.
With all of these things at the top of your get-ready checklist, it’s important to keep in mind that some students will just need time. Be patient and communicate with your child’s teachers so that you’re on the same page for your child’s success in the new school year.
If you have additional questions about helping children with transitions back to school, our therapy center offers ABA sessions for children in and around Roswell, Georgia. We have families from John’s Creek, Alpharetta, Peachtree Corners, and Woodstock (just to name a few!), and our therapists can travel to your home for in-home therapy all over metro Atlanta.