When children start school, they have a lot to get used to. They will be in a new setting, with more children and new rules and routines.
Numerous children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) encounter challenges when confronted with change and transitioning between activities.
Notably, the majority of behavioural issues arise during these transitional periods. From my observations, this difficulty arises due to the need for problem-solving, making choices, and the prevalent use of verbal instructions instead of visual aids by adults.
Moreover, transitions often involve movement and heightened noise levels, exacerbating sensory processing issues. Here are some pivotal moments where implementing supportive strategies can aid children during transitions.
Build Your Child's Confidence in School
There are things parents can do to help children feel confident and optimistic about starting school. You could talk with them about what school will be like.
Borrow books from the library with positive stories about starting school.
Maybe share some happy stories from your own school days. Parents can also help children to build confidence and optimism by encouraging a habit of positive thinking.
Asking children to tell you about the good things that happen each day helps develop this healthy habit.
Teach Your Child to Get Ready in a Responsable Way
To prepare children for school you could:
Involve your child in preparing for school, e.g. shopping for their uniform, school bag and lunch box
Make sure they can manage their lunchbox and school bag. Teachers can’t open everyone’s lunch box, cut up apples, open yogurt pots etc
Plan for healthy lunches, snacks and water to drink
Help your child learn to dress themselves, and to use the toilet on their own. Can they wipe themselves properly? Can you practice this, using toilet flushable wipes can help instil confidence for them whilst they practice
Establish the bedtime and morning routine that they have when they start school. It is very important that they get enough sleep.
Work With Your School and Your Child's Teacher
It is important for parents and teachers to work together and communicate well. I firmly believe that successful education is the partnership between school and home.
It can help if you:
Let the teacher know if there is something happening at home that may be affecting your child
Let them know about any health problems your child may have
Read all the school notices and reply as soon as possible
Get involved in school activities, e.g. listen to children’s reading and talk to your child about what they are learning at school
Encourage your child to share their interest and experiences with their teacher.
Make an appointment to see the teacher if you are concerned about your child. It’s not always a good idea to just think you can talk to the teacher at the end of the day. You need to make an appointment as teachers have bus duties, late room duties, and also, their own children to pick up from school. Remember if you are worried, give the teacher some notice and ask to see him or her. They will welcome the chance to chat, but like all of us, need to be prepared.
The First Few Weeks at School
As your child settles in to school:
They may be tired at the end of the day. Don’t plan too many after-school activities; make sure they have time to rest and for free play
They may be ‘starving’ after school. Take a healthy snack when you pick them up. Try giving them an early dinner as they may be too tired to eat later
They may want to tell you all about their day as soon as they see you. Be available to listen. Some children may want to relax first
Encourage them to talk about good things that happen at school
Make reading with them part of your daily routine. Bedtime stories are a great way to end the day.
Some children wet their pants at school, which can embarrass them. Reassure them that it often happens and is nothing to worry about. Encourage them to tell the teacher. Pack spare clothing in the bottom of their bag and a plastic bag for the wet underwear.
If Your Child is Stressed
Children can show stress by: being tearful, not wanting to go to school, having tummy aches or headaches.
You could help by: encouraging them to talk about what’s worrying them, letting them know that you are confident they can manage. Asking what they think would help them.
If the worries continue, talk to the teacher about the best way to help them.
Remember that how you felt on the first day of school, good or bad, isn’t necessarily the way your child will feel.
If you show you are anxious, worried or delighted about the start of school, your child will pick up those vibes!