Summer vacation has FLOWN by far too fast this year! Soon, we’re going to start seeing those bright, yellow school buses rolling through our neighborhoods as the new school year begins. Our Brecksville ABA therapists know this has been a unique and trying few years for many kids – and families. As it is, transitioning from summer break to another school year can be especially challenging for children on the autism spectrum.
A key goal for our pediatric ABA therapists and occupational therapists at Therapy & Wellness Connection is to help facilitate smoother back-to-school transitions. These can undoubtedly be difficult, but preparing ahead of time can make for a much easier ride into the next school year.
ABA Therapists’ Tips to Transition to Back-to-School
Some strategies you may consider implementing:
- Talk to your child – a lot – about what to expect in the coming school year. This can truly go a long way in reducing your child’s anxiety.
- Get a visual calendar. Some kids on the spectrum struggle with anxiety about when school will start and the changes you discuss will become reality. Just getting a simple calendar and physically crossing off the days will give your child something they can better conceptualize.
- Start practicing your school year routine. Start by waking him/her up a bit earlier than what they’ve become accustomed to over the summer. Do a few practice runs of what your morning routine will be before they leave for school. Having a visual schedule for this might be helpful as well – noting everything from waking up to brushing teeth to getting dressed to eating breakfast to getting on shoes and coat.
- Ask to take a tour of the school. Reach out to the school principal or your child’s IEP team. You might not get to meet the teacher, but at the very least, maybe you can arrange a tour of the building so your child can get acquainted with all the important spots (library, bathrooms, main office, playground, cafeteria, gym, etc.). Consider taking pictures that you can use for visual schedules or social stories throughout the year, if need be.
- Discuss emergency procedures ahead of time. Lots of children on the autism spectrum struggle with sensory issues related to noise volumes and unexpected breaks in routine. But of course, schools have fire drills and tornado drills as a matter of safety. Talk about this ahead of time with your child’s teacher, IEP team and your child. Point out where they will go and what will happen. Maybe keep headphones in a handy spot in case the noise of the alarms is too overwhelming.
- Make a visual daily school schedule. Lots of teachers of younger students already do this, but if you’re child is a bit older, they may not. Creating a general, visual schedule of what occurs in a typical day may go a long way in reducing anxiety.
- Send the teacher a note explaining a bit about your child – their strengths and weaknesses, sensory struggles, dietary restrictions and most effective reinforcements. Maybe your child can even help. This will be invaluable for the teachers and other staff. Make sure to include positive things about your child. Providing copies to the principal, aides, therapists, bus driver, music teacher, gym teacher, art teacher, etc. can be very helpful when it comes to the strategies they use to educate your child.
- Allow them to take their favorite sensory item with them the first day or even week. Kids coping with sensory overload can find great comfort in certain objects (fidget spinners, squish toys, stress balls, etc.). If that’s true for your child, consider allowing them to take one of their favorite items with them – and make sure your child’s teacher, bus driver, aides and others are aware of it and why your child has it.
- Meet the bus driver. If at all possible, see if you can take a quick tour of one of the school buses.
- Write a note of thanks. If the first several weeks go well, let the teachers and other staff know how much it means to you that they’ve helped facilitate a smooth transition!
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you have any questions about how to ensure your child has a smooth transition into the 2021-2022 school year, our Brecksville ABA therapists and occupational therapists are available to help you find solutions!
Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides ABA therapy to children in Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Akron and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, homeschooling, alternative schooling, virtual therapy and education, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email.
More Blog Entries:
Brecksville ABA Therapist Insight: Autism and Self-Injurious Behavior, June 21, 2021, Brecksville ABA Therapy Blog