The unstructured time of the holiday brings its own set of challenges for children with Autism, and their families, so many will be looking forward to getting back to normal term-time routine! Some children will be dreading going back but even for those desperate to get back to school like my son, it is a big adjustment after 6 weeks chilling at home. There are the unavoidable anxieties associated with a new teacher, new classroom and new routines for the year group they are going into. Every teacher has slightly different ways of doing things and these small changes can take a lot of mental energy for an autistic child to process and understand. New is hard work. My son once described how hard dealing with new experiences is for him:
If it’s new things I have to delete whole sections from the organisation in my brain and start all over again and re-make them but in a different way. And it takes 100 energy for even one half percent of that and it makes me want to sleep for a million years.
For more insight into Understanding the Sensory Challenges Around New Experiences check out this post.
So how can you help ease this transition back into school?
- Get well rested
Everything is harder to cope with when you are tired so if you have relaxed bedtimes over the holidays, start gradually returning this to normal bedtimes and wake up times over the last week of the holiday.
- Test out their uniform
- Practice organising belongings
Lay out the things your child is going to need to pack in their bag and practice putting things in and out. If they need a prompt of what to put in their bag at home time, write them a list (this can be a picture list for younger children or non-readers) and pop this in their bag for them to refer to.
- Emphasise the things that are staying the same
Anxious children may focus on all the things that will be different in the new school year. Keep reminding them about all the things that will be the same, whether that is the same friends in their class, same uniform, same school bag, same playground, same lunch box, etc. If they have favourite subjects, remind them that they will still do these in their new classroom. Consider whether buying them new shoes, bags, etc is something that they really need at this point (if they aren’t broken or outgrown). For some children the ones from last year will be comforting.
- Pack some sensory supports
The extra stress of processing all the different routines, expectations and sensory input over the first few weeks of term means even children who normally cope well in school may need more support than usual. The boy will be taking his pressure vest to school for the first few weeks of term at least so he has it if he needs it. He also packs ear plugs, a squishy stress ball and a chewy bangle on his school bag, in addition to the sensory box he has at school. Having them in his bag means he can access them when he feels he needs them and is reassuring in itself.
- Plan in plenty of chill out time
All the additional energy required to process all this newness, means home life needs to be kept as relaxed as possible to give your child time to recover and re-group. Try to keep after school and weekend plans to a minimum in the first couple of weeks so they can just chill out and get plenty of rest.
- Keep channels of communication open
- Pick Out a Back To School Treat
If you need a little stationery update for school or for homework, enter my little giveaway using the gleam widget below and you could win this stationery set:
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CLOSING DATE: Sat 14th Sept 2019, 10pm
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