Back to School

Back to school – I can’t believe Christmas and New Year have already passed us by! How can “Back to School” already be upon us? With only 2 weeks left of school holidays we’d better get cracking.

Preparing for the new school year ahead can be a mammoth task when you have special needs thrown in the mix. For sure, there is joy in purchasing those crisp, new scrapbooks and perfectly uniformed pencils.  But for most kids on the autism spectrum the thoughts of rigid, new school shoes and also scratchy, stiff shirts. This is enough to make them retreat to their bedrooms for the remainder of January. Our kids have usually worked themselves into a state of panic over the thoughts of new teachers, new classrooms and even new classmates. Changing grades often means new toilet blocks, new playground areas and even new furniture. Furthermore so much change is going to occur and they have had 6 whole weeks to worry about it.

Suffice to say returning to school is tough.

As a parent there are a few things we can do to assist them with these epic transitions each year. Once again preparation is key. We need to make sure our kids are equipped as best they can to deal with the emotional and sensory overload they often experience with going back to school.

When our kids are under pressure a lot of those old habits return, such as chewing on shirt collars and picking at fingernails. Before we started home schooling these little habits used to be major issues in those first few months of school. It’s important to speak with your child’s new teacher to explain the sensory challenges. What the best approach to dealing with them is. Be armed with tools. Don’t expect each classroom to already have a plethora of aides appropriate for your child’s developmental stage. If you bring in your own supply your child will always have exclusive use of the tools they need as well.

A great idea is to make a sensory kit for your child. Some helpful items would be a variety of fiddle toys, chewy bracelets and necklaces. Some tactile items such as felt or bubble wrap and any other item you believe helps soothes your child’s overloaded system. For instance a favourite book or rubik’s cube. Your OT will also have some great suggestions.

Wiggle cushions and wedge seat cushions are also invaluable items to have in any classroom. I love these cushions as they are light weight and portable which means they can go from chair to circle time and even to assembly. The extra movement these cushions provide help our kids gain the integration their bodies are craving. Once again, when our kids are stressed, they tend to need more movement than usual.

Don’t forget the usual suspects such as new pencil grips and sloped writing boards to assist with hand writing. Weighted lap blankets and vests to improve focus and also attention. This is a great time to get the new teacher on board with the resources you’d like your child to use from day one.

The commencement of a new school year is not just about change but also about promise and possibilities. The holidays give us time to really think about what goals we’d like to set and what challenges we’d love to try and conquer. It’s also the perfect time for us as parents to think about ways that we can better support our kids in their journey this year. Perhaps it’s a case of writing more social stories and using those visuals again; setting up particular routines or setting concrete boundaries. It really is a time to move forward with energy and positivity and of course plenty of laughter.

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