August in Indianapolis means trips to the Indiana State Fair, one more month of lounging at the pool before Labor Day, and the inevitable moment where kids start the next school year. Going back to school does not have to be stressful, thanks to these tips from therapists in our Autism Family Resource Center.
1. Prepare for an earlier bedtime – This is an opportunity to create a consistent schedule and set expectations. Begin by going to bed a little earlier each and every day working up to that first day of school. The more sleep your child has, the more prepared they will be for learning.
2. Involve your child in school supply shopping – Allow them to go to the store and help pick out clothes, markers and notepads as a way to build excitement about school.
3. Create social stories – Is your child asking “Am I going to have the same teacher / school / therapist / classroom?” Help them answer those questions by creating social stories with tools from the Autism Family Resource Center.
4. Visit the school with your child – Take photos of the school and your child’s classroom and add them to your social stories. Walk the hallways, sit down in the classroom, find the restroom and cafeteria and other important areas your child should become familiar with.
5. Read/watch “back to school” stories – Your local library offers several children’s books with stories of back to school themes including potential scenarios your child may encounter during school. PBS's educational television show Arthur often deals with important issues children face with going back to school.
6. Identify a school buddy – Allow one of your child’s classmates to come over for playtime and get to know your child. ESC Autism and Behavioral Services’ Licensed Clinical Therapist, Maren Oslund, LCSW, suggests “contacting your child’s teacher and ask them if there is a neuro-typical peer in their class that interacts well with your child and would serve as a good model for him or her. Building that friendship outside of school will help that neuro-typical peer advocate for and support your child in the classroom.”
7. Provide a visual schedule – Create a daily schedule that includes the morning, school day and afternoon so your child can anticipate the routine of getting out the door in the morning and back home after school.
8. Communicate with the teacher – Help your child’s teacher know what your child’s favorite things are (ex: dinosaurs) so he/she can incorporate them into educational lessons. Identify any sensory needs your child may have so the teacher can provide an inclusive teaching environment. Communicate with your teacher to make sure they understand your child’s IEP / 504 plan.
9. Offer a study-only area – Have a place in your home that is calm, quiet and free from television, radio and general noise distractions. Maren Oslund, LCSW, also suggests having a “Ready for Homework” visual checklist that includes things like having supplies ready.
10. Commit to the routine –Providing visual supports, sticking to early bed times and using your evening to plan ahead for the next day helps your child understand what is expected and encourages smooth routines.
Going back to school may seem just as much work for parents as it is for their children. The Autism Family Resource Center offers Boardmaker software and laminators so parents can create visual schedules and offers monthly support groups with child care. The center is open to the public Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM or by appointment. Easter Seals Crossroads Autism and Behavioral Services can also provide therapy and behavioral services if issues at or about school arise. Call us at 317.479.3231 for more information about the resource center or our behavioral therapists.