Transitioning back to school after summer can be challenging for both children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their parents and caregivers. Since many children with ASD thrive in consistency and routine, this type of transition can often lead to feelings of worry.
This blog post shares five important tips suggested by our team that can help support a smoother transition back to school for your family.
#1 Plan Small
The first way to support your child during this transition is to plan small. When we plan small, we break steps down into predictable pieces that make it easier to handle. Planning small in preparation for back to school may look like:
- Break each transition step leading up to the new school year into smaller, more manageable pieces.
- Plan a visit to the school before the school year begins to familiarize yourself and your child with the school, classroom, playground, and areas your child may spend time in.
- If possible, arrange a time for your child to meet their teacher and school team.
- Connect with school support staff to develop a plan, learn about specific resources, or accommodations that the school may have for your child.
If you’re looking for additional support during this transition, you can register for an upcoming parent education workshop through our website here.
#2 Use Visuals
Visuals are great tools that can help support transitions with your child as they help organize a child’s mind and create a plan. Simple visual aids can be used before, during, and after a transition. Some ways that you can incorporate visuals to support your child’s transition back to school may include:
- Use a calendar to mark the day when school starts. Countdown to the first day of school with your child.
- Create an individualized social narrative for your child that includes pictures of their school. Social narratives are personalized stories that help to share a situation your child may experience and set expectations. Autism Little Learners shares great examples of social narratives for common situations. You can view them on their website here. Please note a social narrative should be individualized for the needs of each child.
- Watch videos of students going back to school or preparing for school to help create expectations.
- Use a visual schedule to help your child develop a morning routine for school. Practice this routine in advance of the transition.
It is recommended to choose one or two of your favourite visuals and use them together with your child. Check out the Parent Resources section of our Kinark Kreates videos for helpful information on how to create different visual supports for your child!
#3 Collaborate with the school team
Transitioning to school may be challenging for some children because it involves a change in environment, a change of familiar people, and an increase in demands and expectations. To help children transition back to school successfully, parents and caregivers are encouraged to collaborate with the school team as much as possible.
Three ways you can collaborate with your child’s school team to support a successful transition are:
- Communicate with your school team and request meetings to stay up to date with your child’s transition (e.g., to share updates, progress, and strategies).
- Create a list of questions prior meeting with the school team so that you are well prepared to get all the information you need.
- Work with your child’s teacher to determine the best method of communication, such as text, email, or a daily communication journal sent from school with your child.
When you and your child’s teacher work together, you create an optimal learning environment and a united support system for your child. Our team runs a range of free workshops that share information about the school system and collaborating with your child’s school team, you can register for an upcoming parent education workshop through our website here.
#4 Stay informed
Whether your child is starting a new school or changing grades, it is always a good idea to stay informed on the resources and supports available to help your child through the transition. Some ways you can access resources to stay informed may include:
- Attend any school orientation events to find out more about the school transition process and ask any questions.
- Learn about school policies and documents that may be helpful for future school meetings or to support your child, such as the Individual Education Plan (IEP). For more information about the IEP, read our blog post here.
- Be aware of the available resources to help guide you during transition planning, such as Kinark’s parent and caregiver education workshops.
If you have questions about the school system, consider registering for an upcoming Ask a School Consultant session. These sessions are free of charge and hosted by Kinark’s school consultants. You can learn more and register on our website here.
#5 Create an All About Me package
As the new school year approaches, it is likely that your child is going to be working with new teachers. By providing your child’s school team with an “All About Me” package of valuable information, they can better understand your child and support them!
Here are five things to include in your child’s All About Me package for their school team this September:
- A picture of your child
- Their interests, likes and dislikes
- Their areas of strength and need
- Information about how they communicate
- Any safety concerns
You can find a great example of an All About Me package here. It can be edited online and then printed to share with school. To find other examples of All About Me packages for free, you can search online.
We understand the transition back to school can be overwhelming. If you need additional support, our team of Family Support Workers are available to meet with you to help connect you to appropriate services, programs, and funding. Learn more and request assistance by completing our consultation form here.
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