It is that time of year again! The kids are getting ready to head back to school. Parents and children tend to fluctuate between excitement, relief, anxiety, and sadness as the new school year approaches. Most children are excited and nervous at the thought of going back to school. However, children with social communication challenges can find it even more emotional as they have to go back to a place they may not feel accepted or comfortable.
Each year as summer comes to an end, we hold a “Back to School Camp” for kids of all ages to help better prepare them for the transition. Here are some ideas from camp to help your child get back to school with confidence!
- Begin talking about school about two weeks before the first day of school. We tell parents to start talking about it when the back to school sales begin and get them excited about the new school year.
- Mark off the dates on a calendar. Have your child help you cross off each day or countdown to the first day of school.
- Have your child be an active participant in back to school shopping. On our site, there is a Back to School Scavenger Hunt list available that your child can take along as you go shopping. They can help find things like crayons, pencils, glue sticks, etc.
- Take your child to his/her school BEFORE the open house. It can be very overwhelming at an open house or meet and greet night. Most schools are open all summer for adjusted hours. Make stops at the school, explore the playgrounds, ask if you can walk the halls with your child to familiarize them with the layout before the first day. Many schools are happy to accommodate.
- Use pictures! Most schools have web pages with a picture of their school on the page. Go to the webpage with your child and look at the school and talk about it. Also, if you go to the school before an open house, take pictures with your phone. Try to target places your child will be going such as the cafeteria, gym, playground, hallway, and even classroom if you can. That way, you can look through them with your child before school starts.
- Practice teacher names. We practice each teacher’s name in camp by asking each child “Who is your teacher going to be this school year? Writing down a chart similar to the following is a great way to practice.
My name is____________
I will be in the _________ grade this year.
My school name is ________________.
My teacher’s name is_______________.
Middle and High Schoolers:
- Take your child to his/her school BEFORE school starts to walk the halls and get familiar with the layout. Most middle and high schoolers are worried about finding their classes before the next period begins. Some schools will have pre-printed maps that you can mark classes on before going to the school. Ask administrators if you can walk your child’s schedule before school begins.
- Practice opening locks. Another source of significant anxiety for middle and high schoolers is lockers! We purchase locks from a hardware store and practice with the kids. We buy a few and have contests to see who can open them the fastest. This game gets the child familiar with how locks work and will increase their confidence when they actually have to do it.
- Practice changing for PE. Some schools require kids to change into gym uniforms for a physical education class. However, the kids will only have a limited time to do this. You can set a timer and have your child practice changing into his or her uniform in the bathroom at home.
- Talk about the lunchroom. Lunchtime is an awful time for middle and high schoolers. Talk to your child and assure them that all kids are nervous about lunch time. Give them options of what to do if they don’t know anyone in the lunchroom. Talk about body language and how to spot a good place to sit. Role play by asking to sit next to another person.
- Assure your teen that other kids are feeling the same way. Let them know the teachers are there to help the first couple weeks of school.
These are just a few strategies to get your child prepared to go back to school!