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Tips for Transitioning Back to School with Autism

October 5, 2022

Going back to school can be a tricky time of year for any child - but especially so for kids with autism. Difficulty with transitions and autism is common, as many people with autism thrive on routines and dislike disruptions to those routines.

What’s more, schools are often loud and full of people, which can be overwhelming for children with autism. With that in mind, there are a few things you can do as a parent or caregiver for a child with autism to make the transition smoother for the whole family.

ASD Back to School Tips

While returning to school may present its challenges, it can also be a great learning experience for your child with autism in a number of ways. Socializing and learning in a group environment are important life skills.

To help manage the transition back to school in your family, here are some autism tips for parents that can make the new school year easier.

Speak to Teachers and Staff 

Many schools will be prepared to make accommodations, where possible, to help your kid with autism acclimate to school. Email or call your school to see if you can meet your child’s teacher. Use this opportunity to outline what specific challenges your child might face. Remember that every person with autism is different, so be as descriptive as possible to your child’s in-school caregivers.

You know your child best, so be clear about what a bad day could look like and what sort of triggers might affect them. Be ready to offer solutions, while also listening to what the staff might recommend. Brainstorming together will hopefully produce the recipe for success!

Create Sensory-Safe Spaces at School

Another of our tips for autism is to create a sensory-safe space at school. As many children with autism can become overwhelmed with too many stimuli, having an area where they can go to calm down could be a game-changer.

This could be as simple as having an arrangement with the school medical team that your child can sit in their office as needed. You could also arrange for a box of useful tools to be placed there, such as comfortable cushions, favorite toys, fidget toys, or weighted blankets. Some learning environments have even created dedicated sensory-safe areas within their schools. 

Encourage Routines and Positive Stories

Try to match your at-home schedule to the schedule your child with autism will experience in their school. Eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the same time on the weekends and holidays that they do during the school year. Occupational therapy can also be helpful for children with autism, if you have access to it.

Another tip is to use social stories to prepare your child for what to expect. Start with cues like: 

  • “It’s been a really fun summer. We did [help them list activities] during the summer. Next week, I’m going to go back to school. I might feel [sad, nervous, worried, excited] about going back to school.”
  • “My first day of school is on [day]. When I go back to school, I will travel by [foot, car, bus]. When I get to school, I can go to [classroom/teacher name]. I will see my friends called [names].”

Having these touch points that your child can learn and rehearse will help them feel more prepared for their first few weeks back at school. If you have access to them, you could also add photos of teachers, friends, the front gate of the school, or the school bus so they have visual cues as well.

Encourage Communication About Emotions

Children with autism can struggle to communicate their feelings, so working on this in advance can help you to gauge how their time at school is going. For some people, cards with emojis or visual charts can be helpful in expressing how they feel.

Charts with an arrow pointer that your child can point to the emotion closest to what they’re feeling are especially helpful, or try any other tools that involve tactile engagement.

Best Care is proud to help individuals and families in Minnesota. Our team is also here to help support the health challenges you or your loved ones are facing. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about care for children with autism or any other form of home care!

A girl in class looks toward a sunny window
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