Autism and the Back to School Transition

July 26, 2017

After a couple months of a relaxing summer vacation, transitioning back to a structured school routine can be overwhelming and scary for not only a child with Autism but for parents as well. Suddenly, there is a list of tasks that need to be done before the school-year begins: materials to purchase, open house with a new teacher, scheduling with therapy providers, bus schedules, coordination of care, etc.

With so many important tasks on your checklist, it can be easy to overlook the school transition itself. When you have a child with Autism, it is important to think about ways to make the transition into the school setting a bit smoother for yourself and your child. Of course, we should mention that the extent to which you need to prepare for the actual transition depends on your child, but this blog will address some generally helpful ways to prepare for this exciting time of the year.

Make the School Setting Fun!

If possible, bring your child to his/her school and allow him/her to explore the new classroom before school starts. Bring preferred items, like favorite toys and/or food, and make these items part of the experience. Pairing preferred items with this new setting could help make the classroom more appealing if your child knows that preferred things are available to him/her. It’s also a good idea to have your child meet his/her new teacher and to have the teacher deliver your child’s preferred items. This can make it easier for your child to respond to instructional demands placed by his/her teacher in the future.

Create a New Morning Routine

Another idea leading up to the first day to school is to create a new morning routine. Instead of the official first day of school being the first day your child follows this routine, practice your new schedule for a couple of weeks. This can help set you and your child up for success for the rest of the school year.

Some children benefit from a visual schedule to learn new routines. Visual aids, such as a calendar with a countdown to the first day, or pictures demonstrating what the school-day will look like when school begins are some examples. The more your child knows what to expect, the smoother the transition can be.

Since your child’s daily routine is changing, keeping his/her evening routine the same—if not similar—can be beneficial. For example, if your child watches a particular show after dinner, or takes a bath after eating, keep this routine the same.

Consider “Fading In”

“Fading in” is a term we frequently use in ABA. “Fading in” refers to a gradual introduction of things like, demands, items, or settings. When returning to school, possibly consider slowly fading into a full day of learning. For example, think about beginning with half-days of school for the first few days before trying the whole school-day. This is something that you would have to discuss with your child’s teacher/school as it may not always be allowed.

You know your child best, so always consider what works for him/her and individualize these recommendations for your needs. What works for one child may not work for another child. Always remember that there are resources out there. A simple Google search may be overwhelming, due to the 300,000+ results, but here at BCOTB, we do the searching for you. BCOTB offers individualized services focused on school preparation.

BCOTB’s Child Advancement Track teaches children to follow class routines, listen to teacher instructions, work cooperatively with others, participate in circle time, line up and transition, and—ultimately—to be successful in school.

If your child attends BCOTB, his/her analyst can collaborate with the school and share helpful information detailing your child’s participation in our program. Ultimately, this information and collaboration may be the most helpful component of that successful transition we all seek.

If your child does not attend BCOTB and you would like more information on how we can prepare him/her for classroom success, please contact us today.

BCOTB wishes all families good luck. Here’s to a wonderful and successful school year!

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