Starting School Autism Advice
Whether attending school for the first time or returning after a lengthy period of time away from school (for example holidays), transitioning to school for the first time or returning can be an anxiety inducing time for autistic children.
Many autistic individuals thrive on routine, structure and being aware of what to expect. A break from the rudimentary sameness that is safe for autistic individuals can feel overwhelming and frightening.
You can support your autistic child by implementing some Transition Strategies in the weeks prior to their start/return to school.
In my recent YouTube Video I highlight many of the strategies I use with each of my boys when they are transitioning to school.
What is a Transition?
A Transition is a disruption to an expected, predictable pattern, activity, routine or location that will require your child to adapt.
If not managed correctly; transitions can lead to heightened anxieties and upset.
What are Transition Strategies?
You can help your son, daughter or student by implementing Transition Strategies.
Transition strategies can help to:
- reduce anxieties; bring a sense of calm.
- make the change in routine, activity or location- somewhat more predictable for your son, daughter or student.
Below you will find some Transition to School Strategies I have used as tried & true over the years with each of my Autistic sons.
If you have any suggestions of what has worked for you, I would LOVE to hear them! Send me a DM over on INSTAGRAM and when I update this post next I will include your suggestions.
Starting School Autism Transition Strategies
1. Countdown Calendar
I have used this style of Calendar every Summer with both my school-age sons. It helps to give them a concrete sense of when school finishes and when it will begin again.
Each morning they go to the calendar as part of our daily routine and they place the correct picture on the correct date.
2. Social Stories:
‘Social stories are short, written stories, originally intended for children with autism, to help understand a small part of their social world and behave appropriately within it.
Each social story provides a child with clear, concise and accurate information about what is happening in a specific social situation, outlining both why it is happening and what a typical response might be’. (Smith, Caroline, ‘Writing and Developing Social Stories’, 2003)
A Social Story is a story explaining what is expected to happen. The story is written from the child’s perspective usually in the 1st person (where appropriate). Be aware of the language used in the story ensuring it is tailored to the child’s language ability & understanding.
3. Daily Schedules
A daily visual schedule is an excellent way to bring order to an autistic child’s day in a clear concise and most importantly, meaningful way.
I have noticed the immeasurable difference visual supports make daily to each of my son’s lives.
4. Starting School Autism Book
For autistic children starting school for the first, reading books about starting school is a great place to start to introduce the concept. I intentionally wrote and designed Let’s Go To School for autistic children as I wanted to have a book for my own children which talks about what it is like going to school as a neurodivergent child. I have been delighted with the positive feedback I have received thus far.
Let’s Go To School-
A neurodiversity-affirming story to support autistic children starting school for the first time and is written by autistic advocate Amanda Mc Guinness.
For some children, starting school for the first time can be a daunting experience. For autistic children, who think and learn differently, starting school can be upsetting as this is a huge life transition point. Autistic children will need support to understand and accept the change in their life with the start of school.
Let’s Go To School, seeks to support autistic children to understand what starting school may mean for them and it supports autistic strengths in the visual presentation of key concepts with regard to starting school for the first time.
5. Visit the school
If you haven’t already, VISIT your child’s school as often as you can. You could take a short trip in the car with the sole purpose of driving by the school, perhaps pulling to a stop and pointing out the school to your child.
With the School’s permission you could walk around the school’s grounds so your child becomes familiar with the school grounds.
6. SCHOOL CLOTHES / SHOES
In the weeks before your child starts/returns to school ensure your child has tried on and worn their uniform and school shoes.
Many autistic children have sensory differences which may mean the textures of their uniform could be intolerable to them. If you find this to be the case, speak with their school to find a uniform alternative that is tolerable for your child.
7. Communication Passport / Transitioning to School Booklet
You can read in detail HERE what a Communication Passport is and how you can create your own.
If you can’t find the time to create your own, then check out my most recent addition to my online store where you can find a selection of Back to School resources including Communication Transitioning to School I will be using this resource with each of my boys returning to school this year.
8. Starting School FREE Checklist
To support parents in preparing their child with the start of school. I have created a FREE Checklist which you can download HERE.
I hope you have found this post helpful and wish your little puddin a brilliant first day at school! x