Throw on your Autism awareness shirt and get to work. The first day of school is absolute chaos for every parent but with the increased anxiety experienced by an autistic child, the first day can quickly become too overwhelming to bear.
5 Steps to Preparing an Autistic Child for School
The good news is, with these handy tips, you can be an autistic parent pro when it comes to preparing for the first day of school.
Visit the school ahead of time and get used to the sights and sounds
New experiences and unfamiliar places can quickly send an autistic child into a tailspin. So, it’s important to visit the school before hand to help them familiarize with the area. Grab as much information about the school and staff as possible. Walk around the hallways, pull the chairs back on the ground without lifting them, explore the playground, and expose your child to the sights and sounds that will quickly become a part of their everyday life.
If possible, take pictures of their school (inside and out) and head onto the next step…
Practice with pictures of the school
If you’ve taken pictures of the school, you can use them to further expose your autistic child to the school without ever having to leave your house. This is an excellent tool that will gradually help them make the transition into physically going to school. By looking at the pictures and becoming familiar with them, your child won’t feel like their school is ‘new’ once they arrive.
Meet the teachers
Many schools have a meet-and-greet prior to the first day of school to help children become familiar with the surroundings and to meet some friendly faces. As mentioned, the first day is hard for every child. So, this is a crucial step to preparing your little one for their first ‘back to school’ experience.
This will also help ease your mind as an autistic parent, as you’ll know who will be working with your child and you can inform them of any concerns you may have. If possible, take pictures of your child’s soon-to-be teacher to help them become familiar with their face.
Focus on getting them into a regular sleep schedule
A proper sleep schedule is key to the success of the first day for every parent and child. It doesn’t matter if they’re heading to their first day of pre-school or the first day of their senior year – they’ll feel better when they get enough rest.
This school preparation tip might seem silly to even mention but summer often comes with lenient bed times and late mornings. As such, waking up in the morning for the first day of school when your child hasn’t done so in several months will instantly start the day off on the wrong foot. So, start making the transition to a school-appropriate sleep schedule as soon as possible.
Additionally, decide on how you’ll wake them up in the morning. If your autistic child will be waking up with an alarm, get them familiar with the sound prior to back to school.
Recreate the school experience at home through imagination
By now, you see that familiarizing your autistic child is the key to preparing them for school. So, throw on your proud Autism parent tee on and channel your inner imagination. Drive an imaginary school bus with horns, chatter, and laughter. Pretend to teach a lesson from the front of a room while your child sits in a desk. The more imagination you put into it, the more accurate the experience will be and the better your child will feel about going to school.
Remember, prepare and familiarize. Those are the two secrets to preparing an autistic child for their first day of school. Start as soon as possible and practice every day until you and your child are both confident and excited about going to school.