Back to School Planning

By Becs Brocken
  • Getting ready to go back to school
    This article has been put together by Lindy Chau, our Information Officer based in the Lower Mainland. Lindy has been at AutismBC for over 13 years, and has a 21 year old son with autism spectrum disorder.  

    After much effort, you have finally settled your child with summer routine, and now you have to start transitioning them back to school! Like getting ready for summer holiday, getting back to school can be challenging to some children with ASD because it means another “change of routine”. The thoughts of making snacks and lunches that our kids will actually eat, getting them out of bed and getting ready for school, introducing them to new classroom/school and teachers and classmates, can be overwhelming to us, parents, too.

    The following tips will hopefully help you start organizing how you will get ready to transition your children back to school:

    1. Adjust your morning routine
    • Get everybody in the house to go back to a “school day sleeping schedule” gradually by going to bed a few minutes earlier every night until they reach the wake up time for regular school day.
    • Make a morning chart with your child so that they are more involved in the planning of the day.
    • Gradually add on “school routine” into the chart so it won’t be a drastic change of routine for them.
    1. Getting ready for new school/new classroom/new teacher (E.A.)/new classmates
    • Visit the new school/classroom and meet the new teacher before school starts if possible. Otherwise, take pictures of the new environment and people that they will see in the new school year.
    • Go through the school routine with your child using visuals and social stories.
    • Get them to write or talk about thing they like about going to school e.g. playground, library, friends.
    • Read books or watch DVD with them about going to school so that they knows what to expect
    1. Get your child involve in preparing for school
    • Take your child shopping for school supplies and clothes/uniforms for school
    • Bring them along to shop for snacks and lunch for school and they can pick their favorite.
    • Pick a day before school start to role play packing backpack for school, i.e. packing from school supplies to snack and lunch and the special item (if they have one) that they can take to school with them (e.g. a special pen/diary/sticker book/ipad). Make a packing list/visuals.
    1. Personal Profile/Notes/ Summary of summer activities
    • As with attending any new classes/programs, write a personal profile of your child: https://autisticson.wordpress.com/profile/ . This will help new people working with your child to have a greater understanding of their likes/dislikes, strengths and areas of improvement. It also allows people who already know your child to have updated information, a lot can change over a summer.
    • Write a brief summary on new skills/behaviors/favorites that your child has acquired during summer. Also notes on activities they participated in and places you travelled. This will not only give an update to school about your child, but also help developing conversation between teachers/peers and your child.
    • Remember to put an emergency contact card with updated information (new after school care, support worker) in your child’s backpack and make sure your child knows where to find it.
    1. Communication with school
    • Work with your consultant/B.I. to update the communication book with school, then discuss with school to refine it.
    • Find out daily schedule of the class your child will be attending including special events dates (e.g. field trip, assemblies)
    • Set up a meeting with classroom teacher/SEA to discuss how to get your child prepare for the new school year.
    1. Social Stories and Visuals

    Visuals works better than verbal for some children with ASD.  Visual cues help our children understand what to expect and what is expected at their own pace.  As with planning for summer activities, the following visuals would make your child less anxious and more prepared for the new school year:

    • Schedule of the week visuals: Unlike summer, school days are more predictable, therefore, you can do a weekly schedule visuals so that your child will have an idea what to expect at school for the coming week. Don’t forget to put “special activity” on the schedule. Also an “Oops” card that you can put in when you can’t follow the schedule e.g. weather, sickness…etc.
    • Timer: A visual timer would help our children to understand how long the activity will last, i.e. less anxiety for them. Make sure school will follow through with using the timer.
    • Pictures/ photos : This is especially helpful in introducing new places and special activities
    • Video modelling: This would be even better than pictures if it involve rules and new environment.
    1. Relax and be positive

    It can be stressful for both parents and children to start a new school year, but remember, our children do not only copy behavior, but also emotion. Relax and try to help your child get ready for the new school year, take things slowly and stay positive. Starting their first day of school with a positive note will make the rest of the year easier for both of you.  Have a great year!

    Lindy Chau has been an Information Officer at AutismBC for over 13 years, and has a 21 year old son with autism spectrum disorder.  If you have a question for Lindy about Back to School planning you can email her on lchau@autismbc.ca or call 604 434 0880 Ext.103.