The first day of school is quickly approaching and you may have noticed some changes in your child. Has he become more argumentative? Is she exhausted long before bedtime? Are they foraging for food at all hours of the day?
Change can be intimidating for anyone, but for children entering a new school or going to school for the first time, it can be downright scary! Navigating a new routine and meeting new people may overwhelm some children. It is common to see these behavioral changes as the kickoff to the school year approaches.
But, creating healthy habits and establishing a routine can help ease your child’s transition into a new schedule.
It may also be valuable to have a practice week of the new schedule before school begins. Set the alarm, eat breakfast and get dressed before the scheduled departure time for school, and have lunch at their scheduled school lunchtime. By implementing a slower transition, you can help ease your child into their new routine.
Another valuable tool for your kiddo? Creating a social story specific to their new transition.
A social story provides a child with a description of an upcoming event, situation or activity and gives them specific information about what they might expect. It can help introduce a child to a new situation while helping them cope with the element of change.
By giving a child verbal and visual cues of what might happen when they go back to school, you can help them feel more comfortable when situations arise in their new environment. You are providing your child with tools to manage the unexpected and alleviate some of their anxiety in the process.
There are a few things to keep in mind when you set up your social story—
1. What is your goal?
For example, your goal may be to help your child learn about what a day at school will look like. Maybe you want to teach about appropriate behavior in the classroom, or taking turns with friends.
2. What will your child need to understand in order to achieve this goal?
For example—the flow of the daily schedule, personal space, appropriate language, raising their hand, etc.
3. Answer the who, what, where, how, and why in your social story.
For example—the name of their new teacher, location of the classroom, riding the bus, etc.
It is important to keep your story positive!
Demonstrate to your child what to do instead of what not to do. I wrote this printable back-to-school social story that you may download for your own use. We are using this social story with our two children with autism as they each prepare to attend a new school this year.
Social stories are valuable for any child.
However, for children with autism specifically, these stories can be an invaluable asset to prepare them for new situations, events or expectations. It is a positive programming tool to set a child up for success.
Children on the autism spectrum may experience a heightened level of anxiety surrounding any transitions or changes to their routines. It may be helpful to request a tour of the school or images for a social story prior to your school’s Open House. If you are unable to arrange a visit prior to the Open House, snap some pictures as you walk around the school that evening. I bet your child’s teacher will encourage your efforts to make their first day a success! Your child can refer to these images to visually prepare them for the first day of school.
As every parent knows, each child has unique needs.
My son needs to be quickly redirected to a fun activity after talking about something that makes him anxious. My daughter, on the other hand, spends a little more time talking about it before initiating a subject change when she is ready to move on. Use your discretion as you prepare your child for a new situation, so as not to create more anxiety for them.
Our goal is to help prepare our children for success. Some of our kids need a little more preparation than others, and that is okay! There are several methods we can use to help them transition and make this an awesome school year—social stories are one great option.