Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often thrive when they follow a consistent routine. So it’s no surprise that big transitions—like starting a new school year—can lead to a lot of stress.
Planning ahead, and including your child in the preparations, can help ease tensions and problem behaviors that may arise during this time. These steps can help smooth the way:
- Start by talking about school with your child. Remind her that school is starting soon and begin setting expectations together for the new school year. If you know some of your child’s classmates, consider scheduling a play date for them to reconnect before summer break ends.
- Start preparing early, and make it fun. Make an event of purchasing new school supplies and clothes. If you can, incorporate sensory-friendly supplies and tools, like a fidget spinner, to help your child cope. Make sure that new clothes are comfortable and washed and that new shoes have time to be broken in.
- Take your child to visit the school. Visit the new classroom as well as other parts of the school that your child will spend time in, like the front office, cafeteria, art room, gym and playground. Have your child meet her new teacher(s) and school administrators.
- Connect with school leadership and support staff to learn about specific resources and accommodations the school has for children with autism. Set up a communication plan with your child’s teacher. Give the teacher(s) information about your child and her diagnosis. If you teacher is not experienced with teaching a child with autism or has questions, provide helpful resources that have worked for your child.
If possible, allow your child to have an on-site practice day to help her prepare for the new routine. Take pictures of your child’s school routine and teacher(s) to incorporate into a social story for her.
Post a picture or calendar well in advance so that your child can see what to expect from the new schedule. Start preparing for new morning and evening routines. Once you learn your child’s new daily school schedule, slowly accommodate for your child’s new wake-up and meal times if needed.
We recognize that every child is unique and that the content of these articles may not work for everyone. This content is general information and is not specific medical advice. We hope these tips will serve as a jumping-off point for finding the best approach to helping a child with autism. Always consult with a doctor or healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about the health of a child. In case of an urgent concern or emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department right away. Some physicians and affiliated healthcare professionals on the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta team are independent providers and are not our employees.