Getting Back into the Routine: Tips for a Successful Transition Back to School

Whether you’ve already started school and the first week was a little rough or you’re just getting started, here are a few tips from our Board-Certified Behavioral Analyst, Dr. Molly Adams, on how to make starting the new school year as smooth as possible.

Talk about the upcoming year

Talk to your child about the expectations for their new grade level. Being proactive about setting expectations is key to having your child with special needs understand what is expected from them.  You can also take a tour of the school. Even if you’re in the same school, your child may be in a new room. Go on a tour and go through the route to their new classroom.

Cross days of the calendar

Build that excitement about the first day of school by crossing days of the calendar. This will also give your child a visual on when their first day of school will be. Visuals are a great tool to help children with autism with expectations and building routines.

Meet the teacher prior to starting school

While you’re on the tour stop by to meet their teacher. You want your child to be familiar with their teacher prior to starting school. Also, meeting the teacher before the beginning of the new school year will help them know who he/she will be going to on the first day.

Make a photo book about the new school year

This will provide your child with a visual of what the school will look like. Here are some key areas to take pictures of:

  • Classroom
  • Locker/Cubby
  • Lunch Room
  • Pick Up Line or Bus Line
  • Restrooms

After you create the book, look over the pictures and talk about what your child will do at each of them.

Stay on top of your child’s progress

If your child has already started school, make sure that you stay on top of their progress. Make sure their IEP is in place. It’s always a good idea to make sure your child’s teacher is aware of their IEP and any accommodations they may have. Also, be sure to attend any parent meetings. This is a great way to touch base with their teacher to see how the school year is going.

Organize your special education documents

Put all your documents in a binder, cabinet, or drawer so it is easily accessible when you need it.  That way when it’s time for their ARD you’re ready!

Practice activities that your child might not have had experience with.

The first few weeks of school is a great time to practice packing his/her lunch box, waiting in line for the car or bus and for older kiddos, the combination for their locker.

Reset bedtime and morning routine

It will be very important to get in the routine of waking up and going to bed for school one week before school starts.  Even if school has already started, you can still shorten bedtime by 15 minutes each day to get them back in the swing of things.

Discuss changes in your child’s routine

Is grandma picking up your child instead of you or are they going to an ABA therapy session right after school?  Discussing any changes to your child’s schedule will help to prevent meltdowns.

Start Fresh

The last but most important tip is to start the new school year off fresh! No matter what happened in the previous year it’s important to start this new school year off on a clean slate. No one wants to be reminded of mistakes lurking in the past. Positive thoughts lead to positive actions. This tip is for parents and children!

No matter if you’re just starting school, preschool or ABA therapy use these tips to make the school year a success. Also remember you may need to revisit these tips after extended breaks like Thanksgiving and Christmas Break.

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