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Preparing any child for school is a difficult thing to do for parents in general. Kids become anxious and the parents do as well because of worrying about the challenges that their kids could face such as problems with teachers, bullying and so on. Parents, however, have to hide their anxiety when they are preparing their kids for school as they want to be completely positive and encouraging. And parents of autistic children have a lot more anxiety and uncertainties when they are preparing their kids with the disorder for school.
The anxieties that parents of autistic kids face when they are wanting to get them ready for school are a result of the concerns that involve sensory issues, a break in the routine, the battles with teachers, and bullying. That is why there are 7 steps laid out for parents of autistic children to help them prepare for going to school that will help them minimize these anxieties:
Meet With Teachers And Therapists
It is important for parents of autistic children to always meet with the school staff and therapists that plan to work with the children before school begins. The school staff, as well as the therapists that intend to work with the kids, need to know about their unique needs ahead of time so they can create a plan on how to meet and work with the needs of each child. Important assessment documents, doctor’s notes, and anything else important that is related to the diagnoses of each child must be brought so that the staff can keep copies.
This way, if the staff is familiarized with the needs of the child, then they will be better prepared to help them in ways that they can.
Take The Child To The School In Order To Become Familiarized
One of the critical things that must be done in order to prepare an autistic child for school is to take the child to the school so he or she becomes familiarized with the building before the first day of classes. In fact, take the child to the building several times before the start of school so the first day will not be a huge adjustment.
Expose The Child To Social Settings Before The First Day Of School
Exposing kids with autism to social settings before school begins, in general, is extremely important. The methods to do this can be you taking the child to the park with other kids, or setting up a playdate with a friend’s child even if he or she is typical. The point of this is to get the autistic child used to interact with other kids which will happen in school.
If there are any camp programs that run right before school starts that are geared specifically for autistic kids, that would also be a great approach to introduce interaction to kids that have the condition. It can even be worth taking a tour of the school before school starts so that your child is familiar with all the different elements of the school, including the playground, the classrooms, and also the cafeteria. If your autistic child has difficulties with food and eating then it’s best to check with the school to find some workarounds.
Familiarize Your Child With New Clothing, Supplies, Or Anything That is Relevant To School
Because children with autism often have sensory processing issues, it is best to expose kids to sensory-friendly clothing that they have not worn before. This way, when you do your back to school clothes shopping, the child will not have to face a huge adjustment when he or she has to wear new clothing for school.
It is also recommended to get the school supplies ahead of time such as the backpack, lunch boxes, pencil cases, binders, and so on so that the child is familiar with those as well. In fact, kids with autism should carry around full backpacks at home just to become familiar with the process of doing so when they go to school. The point is that you want to minimize the intensity of adjustments your child will need to make before the first day of school arrives.
Social Stories About Going To School Are Essential
Kids with autism are visual and rote learners. This is why when you are preparing kids on the autism spectrum for anything whether it is back to school or for any big change that will happen, social stories are helpful when it comes to the preparation. There are plenty of good social stories about going to school which you can show them while you are making the other preparations that have been mentioned above so they fully understand that this big change will be happening in their lives.
It is always important to remember that kids on the autism spectrum have a much easier time accepting changes that will happen if they are well aware of it ahead of time. And social stories make this much easier for kids as well as the parents.
Create A Visual Schedule Or Sequence Pictures
In addition to utilizing social stories when it comes to preparing the child with autism for school, creating a visual schedule that outlines the activities expected to happen at school is also an excellent tip. For instance, if a certain class is meant to happen first thing in the morning, that should be outlined, and then recess periods and the lunch period must be included in the schedule as well so the kids know what to expect during each school day.
Sequence pictures can help the child understand what to expect as well that can be added to the visual schedule. It can be pictures of kids sitting at the desk doing their work, as well as pictures of kids eating lunch at school, and pictures of kids playing at recess. Those pictures can be cut out of magazines or from images you pull from Google images.
Prepare Yourself For The Transition Emotionally
Preparing your autistic child for school properly also means you need to prepare yourself for this big adjustment. This will be a hard adjustment for the parents and if you happen to be very anxious or are struggling with it due to fearing the uncertainties your child may face, then you may want to talk to a professional about how to manage your stress and emotions.
You want to prepare your kids with autism for school in a positive and encouraging way and do so effectively. While you are utilizing the tips listed from 1 to 6, you need to utilize point 7 as much as you can for yourself so the whole process is as stress-free as possible.