As we approach the end of summer, it is time to start thinking about how to transition back to a school routine. Consider the following strategies when getting your kiddos ready for the new school year:
Resume Old Routines
Your child’s routines, especially their sleeping routine, may have changed quite a bit over the last couple months. Returning to a school sleep schedule can take several weeks or longer, depending on the child, so it is often best to begin transitioning toward the end of summer so your child is well-rested and used to an earlier bedtime during the first week of school.
Incrementally move back to the desired bedtime: Try putting your child to bed and waking them up 10 minutes earlier than the night before for a few days. Repeat until you ultimately reach your goal bedtime.
Establish a soothing routine: Running around outside, playing video games and watching action movies right before bed can make it difficult to fall asleep. Instead, try reading a book, working on a puzzle, coloring a picture, or doing other relaxing activities. This also could provide a good opportunity to reintroduce a homework routine.
Minimize meltdowns: Meltdowns can happen more frequently when changing routines, especially routines related to sleep. If your child seems more fatigued throughout the day, adding a short nap, or changing from a high-intensity activity to a less demanding one, may help your child get through the day without an extra meltdown.
Prepare for a New School Setting
Whether your child is starting school for the first time or transitioning to a new teacher, it is essential that your child feel safe and secure in this setting where they will be spending many hours of their day.
Tour the school: Contact the school to identify an appropriate time to explore the halls, their classroom, the cafeteria, the library, and other locations where your child will be spending their time. You may wish to spend extra time with your child practicing the route to their classroom, the restrooms, and the locations where they can find a trusted adult (for example, the school counselor’s office). If it is a new school or a new classroom, consult with the teacher on where your child will be seated. If the location is too distracting or uncomfortable for your child (under a noisy fan, near the door to the hallway, etc.), you may wish to ask if a seat reassignment is an option.
Schedule a meet-and-greet: While you may have recently met with the teacher at an IEP meeting, it can be helpful for some students to get familiar with their teacher in a one-on-one setting. Even if the student has the same teacher as the year before, a lot of changes can occur over the summer. You also may want to think about creating a “Getting to Know Me” document to share with anyone who will be working closely with your child. IEPs make a point to address a student’s strengths, but sometimes it can feel hidden among all of the identified needs. In a handout like this, you can include a brief description of the student’s strengths, interests, likes/dislikes, and other pieces of helpful information. Be creative, add color, and make it unique to your child.
Update documents and supports: If any changes are being made to your child’s schedule, activities and snacks, or locations/persons involved in the school day, it is a good idea to reflect those in your child’s visual schedules, social stories, or other tools used at home to account for changes in options and routines. Children with autism often have difficulties with changes in routines. Making sure that they have up-to-date and relevant supports can help them be as successful as possible during their school year.
Nathan Morgan completed professional internships at Milestones Autism Resources and Achievement Centers for Children. Prior to returning to Milestones, Nathan was employed full-time as an Early Childhood Mental Health Social Worker at Achievement Centers where he provided consultation and therapeutic services to young children and their caregivers. Nathan is also an Autism self-advocate who has shared his experiences on panels, at events, and on the local news. He is passionate about teaching and Autism related research.