Preparing Your Autistic Child for School

Photo: Autism Spelled on a ChalkboardIt’s that time; parents all over Houston are getting their kids ready for another year of academic achievement. When you are the parent of a child diagnosed with autism, you must develop strategies that are unique to the individual, because autistic children or those on the spectrum require a little more adjustment and preparation for the change in routine. Now is the time to reestablish those all important patterns and get your child in the right state of mind for school.

First Year in School

Most autistic children benefit from seeing their new classroom and meeting their teacher before school starts, but this is critical the first year or if you are transitioning to a new school. Walking into a class means introducing your child to a whole new world, one that is unfamiliar and scary for both of you. Take the time to get to know the new classroom and environment before school starts.

Start talking about school a month or two beforehand, so it becomes a part of your everyday conversations. Show your child pictures of classrooms and videos of kids participating in different activities.

Create social stories about going to school, too. In a social story, your child is the main character and you use pictures, preferably ones of the actual classroom and teacher, to describe a day in school and things that happen there.

Set up playdates with other kids that will be in the class. Knowing at least one child may help alleviate some of the stress of going to school for the first time for both kids.

Creating Routines

Start by getting the whole family into the school-time morning routine. This means everyone goes to bed a little earlier and gets up as if they have class. Make a morning picture chart for your child to follow that includes everything you do right up until it’s time to leave for school.

Once the morning routine is set, work on the afternoon schedule. Incorporate things like drawing or coloring into homework time, so your child gets used to sitting quietly and working, for example.

Prepping for School

Let your child be part of planning for a new school year. Pick out clothes and supplies together. Let them shop for a new backpack to use for the year and work together to pack it. If your child is new to school, talk about what each thing that goes into the backpack is for and how to use it.

Make getting ready for school part of your daily routine a week or two before class starts. Let your child lay out clothes for the next day and make a bag lunch the night before.

Ask about doing a walkthrough with the teacher the day before class and talk about what will go on in the new year. Take this time to update the teacher on anything going on with your child and give the office a fresh list of emergency contacts and special needs.

Prepping your autistic child is the best way to relieve the stress that can come with school. It will help everyone in the family make the transition from summer to another exciting year of learning.