Sweet B was 3 when she started preschool and even though she just turned 16 this year, I will remember that day like it was yesterday. That day was quite possibly one of the most difficult for her and for me and if you’d like, you can read about our story here.. Prior to that, she had stayed at home with me while her team of therapists came in and out of the house. But, after meeting with the Early Intervention team, it was decided that going to a special needs preschool program would be best. Thanks to V, I was already somewhat familiar with the special education process at the early childhood level. But, because had already been in daycare, the transition to preschool was easy. Today I want to share my back to school transition tips for autistic kids.
Sweet B has been in some sort of special education setting since she was 3. She has been with her current school since kindergarten and will remain there until she turns 21. After that we’ll start looking into day habilitation (or community without walls) for her but that’s still a little bit away.
Back to school can be intimidating and scary for any student (and parent) and special needs children are no exception.
But, with a good set of transition tips in place, you can help make this time of the year easier on yourself and your child.
7 Back to School Transition Tips for Autistic Kids
1. If this is your child’s first time at school, see if you can arrange a tour beforehand.
You may have done this already when you were considering schools, but if your child wasn’t with you, be sure to take them with you. That way they can get familiar with the classroom and building. Of course, this doesn’t account for when school is in session (additional noises, smells, etc.) but, they can at least know where things are.
If at all possible, see if you can develop a set of picture cards (classroom, school building, playground, etc.) to help your child at home.
2. If your child will be riding the bus, ask the bus company if they can take a ride.
This may help them get familiar with the bus route and get used to riding the bus. Of course, this won’t account for when there are other children on the bus but this could help out a lot. Go over basic rules of bus safety and if need be, create a visual chart to help out.
3. Involve your child in back to school shopping.
Once you have your child’s list of school supplies, take them with you and go shopping. Let them know what each supply is for, if you can. If need be, make a visual check list or regular check list and let them check off each supply as it’s bought. Let them help you pack their backpack for their first day.
4. Once you know what your child’s basic schedule will be like, help set up a visual schedule chart.
Involve your child’s school day in their schedule and include key transition times for morning and afternoon. Help them out further by creating a visual morning transition chart (breakfast, backpack, bus, etc.) and visual afternoon chart (bus, backpack, snack, etc.).
Is your child starting school for the first time? Be sure to check out my tips for preparing your autistic toddler for preschool.
5. Once you have the contact numbers for your child’s bus company and school (classroom, nurse’s office, etc.) write them all down and keep them in several places.
6. Purchase several fidget toys that may help your child and save them for the first day of school. Let them know that they’re to help on the school bus.
7. If at all possible, don’t wait until back to school night before you meet your child’s teacher.
Send them an e-mail or give them a phone call. Arrange a face to face meeting, if at all possible. There’s nothing wrong with waiting until the back to school night, but just remember that you aren’t the only parent in attendance.
Back to school means the introduction of a new routine and the interruption of a familiar routine. Help ease this time of the year both for you and your special needs child with these back to school transition tips.