Can you believe it is already August? I feel like this summer, and even this year, are flying by faster than I can blink. The Back to School section is already set up at the stores and some kids start back as early as next month!
This year, my son is moving up into the middle school and it is a big change for him. Transitions can be hard on all kids, but it is especially challenging for kids with autism and other special needs. Everything is bigger. Everything is new and everything can be overwhelming. I have been preparing my son for his transition and I am going to show you 5 ways to help a special needs child transition into a new school.
Tour The School:
Ask the school if you can set up two tours. One, at the end of the school year, once everyone is off for the summer. That way, your child can walk through the halls, see the lunch room, gym and any other important area. Also ask if you can tour the school again, right before school starts, after the teachers have their classrooms setup. This way, your child can see everything set up and ready to go. They can see their classroom, their locker, the front office and perhaps, meet some of the key staff at the school.
Practice The Ride To School:
If you are driving your child, take a couple of practice trips to and from the school, so they know how long it will take. If they are taking the bus, call the bus company and ask if they will take your child on a practice ride or, ask them for a copy of the route and drive them around it yourself.
Meet The Teacher:
Often times, special needs students have a homeroom teacher or a case manager, that they see and work with everyday. Contact them and ask if they can meet your child before school starts. This will hopefully set up and initial bond and comfort with that teacher.
Get The Schedule:
See if you can get a copy of your child's new schedule. That way, you and more importantly, they know what will be expected during the day and where they will be at certain times. This will help with the anxiety of the unknown. My son, who has higher functioning autism, works through the day much better when he has a walk through schedule that he can read.
Find A Buddy:
I know this won't be possible for everyone, but if you can, set up a fun BBQ or get together with other parents and kids from the special education program. It's always nice for our special needs kids to know people before transitioning into a new situation. Our school district has a special summer program for special needs kids, where they meet and go out into the community together, a few times during the summer. So far, they have volunteered at a nursing home and gone fishing. My son ABSOLUTELY loves it.
Don't forget to go over your child's coping skills and expected behaviors. It's important to remind our kids about the tools that they already have and have already learned.
Hopefully, this helps you and your special needs child as much as it has helped us. By using these 5 ways to help a special needs child transition into a new school, I feel like my son is less anxious and more ready than ever to start middle school!