Going back to school after the long summer holidays is often a daunting thought for autistic children and those with other additional needs, including ADHD – our Family Support Lead Julia Cox shares her top tips to help here.
Children may be excited to see their friends again and to start learning new topics and subjects, but they will also feel apprehensive about moving from their home routine to the demands of a school week – particularly after the disruption they may have experienced over the past 18 months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Gently remind your child of the positives of school and continue to focus on these over the next couple of weeks.
You could look back over memories of good times at school – photos, certificates, artwork etc – and reawaken their interest in favourite subjects by watching TV documentaries together.
To minimise the anxiety they are feeling, try to create a calm and ordered home life for them. Here are some ideas you could try:
- Reduce the demands you make on your child/young person.
- Pick your battles. Choose which things are worth arguing about and which can wait.
- Stick to a consistent daily routine with lots of predictability.
- Don’t fill every minute of their day but instead give lots of time for relaxation.
- Think about their sensory needs – limit noise and activity at home. Encourage a balance of regular exercise and pyjama days on the sofa.
- Have a timetable for the rest of the holidays, which emphasises all the positive things happening and distracts from worries about September.
The routine of getting to school is often one of the biggest problem areas for our children, so start getting back into a routine now, with the help of these tips:
- Get up/go to bed at roughly the same times each day.
- Make frequent visits to the school site. Practise the journey. Walk round the perimeter. Go inside if possible.
- Wash the school uniform to soften the material and make it smell right. Leave it hanging up where it can be seen or encourage your child to practise wearing it around the house, so it becomes comfortable and familiar.
- Use a school lunch box at home.
- Use a school bag and pencil case, etc, at home.
Help your child to practise the skills they will need to cope at school including social skills and independence.
Start by building time out of their bedroom into the daily routine, even if only for brief periods and encourage them to join in with social events with familiar people.
Practise getting undressed/dressed for PE/games and help them to load their school bag, so that they can fit everything in neatly and find it again when they need specific items.
And to help your child mentally prepare for the upcoming term, try to build their confidence and self-esteem as much as possible.
You can do this by helping them to feel good about themselves, perhaps by asking for their help and advice with things you need to do, showing that you value their opinion.
You might also want to allow them to have lots of time on their special interests, sometimes joining them in the activity to show that they can share their knowledge and expertise.
Set aside specific times to talk about school. Try not to talk about it outside of this time but note down worries and questions to be sure they are all addressed before they go back. When answering their questions, try to keep to the facts.
Find out from their school about any changes and explain them to your child as simply as possible, using visual information and social stories.
Emphasise the things that are staying the same. It will really help your child if you tell them what will be happening at school and what they will be allowed to do, rather than focusing on the things that they won’t be able to do – check with the school about what the latest guidance/rules are about things like Covid tests and when and where to use face coverings,
And further advice is always available from Autism Berkshire’s family support team. You can contact them in the following ways – please make sure to include your email address and a phone number in your message: