With summer ending and the school year approaching, it can be stressful for any student, especially those with autism. Not only do many autistic students struggle to communicate and advocate for themselves, but they rely on routine and structure. Because of this reliance, the transition to school at the end of the summer can present challenges for families and students.

In speaking with parents, researching for our clients and through years of experience in the field, we’ve compiled a list of tips to help prepare your student for school. These tips are meant to provide ideas on how to help ease the stress and anxiety for both you and your student as they take the critical step of beginning another school year.

  • Talk to your child frequently about what to expect in the upcoming year. This tip is at the top of most lists in preparing your child for any change in routine — prepping for school is no different.

  • Show them videos or pictures related to school. For learners with more significant disabilities or who require more supports, showing them pictures or videos of school will familiarize them with their classroom surroundings. In the past, we have used pictures or videos of students’ morning routine, buses, backpacks, school routine/lockers, classrooms, teachers, etc. You might also show them familiar content, songs or videos that they watch at school.

  • Use a calendar to mark the days. This simple task may help your child understand the coming start date and what is involved a bit more. You might also put pictures on a velco strip or other calendar notes your child will understand

  • Practice the new morning routines. If your child’s sleep schedule changed during the summer months, begin practicing waking up earlier – a little bit at a time.

  • Take a tour of the school. Arrange a time to visit the school – especially if your child is changing schools or classrooms. Have them meet with staff, the principal or teachers, if possible. The more they interact with the people in their lives, the better.

  • While on tour, take photos. Pictures of teachers, rooms, bathrooms, etc., will help better acclimate them to the new surroundings.

  • If your child uses an augmentative device to communicate, work with the Speech Therapist to ensure all the adults in their classroom are familiar with it. At the very least, the teacher should be familiar with the device before school. All the aides who will work with your child should be trained as well, and there should be a plan in place so that all are comfortable using the device within the first few weeks of school. For example, making a list of words/phrases that your child can request independently will help their aides and teachers know what to look for ahead of time.

  • If your child has sensory issues, talk to their teacher about having a comfort item available to them.. An object they’re comfortable with will go a long way in dealing with sensory overload. If the comfort item is age-inappropriate or for resting (like a pillow or blanket), talk to the teacher about designated times it could be available. You want your child as comfortable as possible, especially in new surroundings.

  • Ask for help. Requesting assistance shows that you are willing to learn and try new things to help your child. Ask how you can follow through with communication or behavior strategies used at school. Everyone loves a solid team effort!

These simple, yet effective tips will help the transition to school go a little smoother for you, your child and their school.

Have other ideas? Please feel free to share them with us on social media or by contacting us at 234-802-2067 and [email protected].