Back to school: The new school year is almost upon us and there is often trepidation over the transition to a new class, especially if a child is starting at a new school. The scout motto of ‘Be Prepared’ rings true. There are many things a parent can do to help ease what can sometimes be a difficult transition of going back to school.
If you have a child starting school, you may like to consider making their lunch and recess in their lunch box this week. Having meals at the same time and in a similar manner as they would at school, can ease with the transition.
Creating an individualised social story about your child’s school, with real photos of the school, can ease a child’s apprehension about going back to school. Carol Gray’s website has excellent resources for preparing social stories. Visiting the school also helps the child visualise and understand the school environment, this is particularly important for children starting at a new school.
Visual aids can be used to illustrate the various routines that form part of the school day. BoardMaker® is an ideal tool for creating great visual schedules. A morning routine can decrease the need to remind your child as they become familiar with what they need to do, and a visual schedule of after school activities can provide reassurance to your child. Ideally, the school will also use similar visual schedules in the classroom to provide consistency.
Providing a one page summary of your child to their teacher is an effective way to provide a quick insight into your child’s strengths, challenges, sensory issues etc. Sue Larkey’s Summary Profile of a Student is a brilliant tool. It is important to regularly update this profile as your child’s strengths, interests, triggers and emotional regulation strategies change.
Another way to develop a strong reciprocal relationship with your child’s teacher is to identify the preferred method of communication for the teacher and school. This can ultimately help in getting the things that you need and want for your child at school. Face to face meetings are ideal in establishing an understanding and should be part of the creating your child’s Education Plans. However, using e-mails on a more regular basis creates a paper trail and allows people to read and respond to them at a time that is convenient to them.
Finally, be prepared for the emotional fall-out from the sensory overload that can be caused by the school environment – especially after having had such a long break over the summer holidays. There are many strategies (such as not asking your child too many questions at the end of the school day and/or giving them a break before starting homework) that can be implemented to reduce the sensory load, but they must be individualised to your child. Your child may need to unwind at home, and it can be useful to give yourself and your family the space to just be.