Any transition can be difficult for a child, and even more so for one diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. The transition to kindergarten can be especially daunting for both the child and the parents.
If you are in this transitional time in your child’s life, you might have concerns about how your child will adjust to school, if their needs will be met, and if they will be understood. You might also be excited for all of the new friendships, experiences, and opportunities that await your child.
Having mixed feelings of doubt, fear, and hope are common at this stage. However, there are ways to prepare yourself and your child on the autism spectrum for this shift.
Make Connections to the School
The best way to feel more secure about your child’s transition to elementary school is to stay connected to the school. Find a Facebook group of parents at the school, learn the school website, and identify the ways to receive regular information about what’s going on. Volunteering at events is another way to gain more knowledge of the school (not to mention you can observe your child interacting with others).
The most important person to form a connection with is your child’s teacher. Many children on the autism spectrum will have multiple instructors, and sometimes support staff, and the more who know the unique challenges your child faces, the better.
Start open communication early, letting the teacher know what works at home with specific behaviors, what to expect from your child, and what your child struggles with. Your child’s IEP will also be vital in making your child’s accommodations known, so you can take comfort in knowing that if your child does have one, the teacher will know its contents prior to the first day of school.
Get Yourself and Your Child Familiar With the School
Knowing what to expect is a surefire way to ease anxiety, both for you and your child. In the weeks leading up to the start of school, gather whatever information you can to teach your child. Bus schedules, people in the building to go to for help, rules of the school, and a map of the building can be resources for preparing your child and helping them feel more comfortable.
If possible, request a tour of the building prior to the start of school. Visit the classroom, the cafeteria, the playground, and anywhere else your child might be. If this isn’t available, creating visuals, and even gathering photographs of staff members your child should know, can be an effective substitute.
Create a Visual Schedule
As the school year gets closer, it is helpful to gradually move into a school routine. Wake up times and eating times should start to mimic the school day. Making a visual schedule, which includes the regular and significant moments of the day, can go a long way in helping a child adapt. Include illustrations, or have a fun photoshoot so they can see themselves doing the various activities.
As you shift to a new routine, don’t shy away from changing things up once in a while. Reminding your child about the significance of flexibility will prepare them for those school days where the schedule might look a little different.
Read Books Together
Children absorb a lot through books, especially when shared at a calm moment. Take a look at the local library or bookstore and select books where the protagonist is entering kindergarten to let them know what to expect and how others in their situation might be feeling.
Some of our favorites include:
- First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg
- Clifford Goes to Kindergarten by Norman Bridwell
- Countdown to Kindergarten by Alison McGhee
- Kindergarten, Here I Come! by D.J. Steinberg
- The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
Expose Your Child to Social Settings
If your child has been primarily with family this summer, consider having them intentionally spending time with other children. It can be as simple as bringing your child to a playground regularly or scheduling playdates. No matter which way you go about it, regular exposure to other children is a good reminder that these interactions can be fun and a chance to practice social skills.
As part of the Springtide family, you can expect the Registered Behavioral Technicians to be an integral part of this transitional process. The center can be made to mimic a classroom to prepare students for school in the fall, and can address potential social situations your child will encounter. If you are having concerns about your child entering school, or looking for ways to reinforce these skills at home, reach out on our website, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a call at 888-260-1609.
Reach out today and speak with one of our enrollment specialists to get started with Springtide