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Back to school can be a stressful time of year for children. A new classroom, new teacher, new classmates and sometimes even a new school can bring undue stress to any child during this transition period. For children with autism, this time of year can be especially stressful. New changes can cause a great deal of anxiety, but parents can alleviate the stressors and make the transition easier for all involved, more importantly, for their child and for their best interest.
Take some time to visit the school grounds and the classroom if possible (open house maybe?) to allow your child to get comfortable with the space he/she will be in for most of their day. It would great if you are able to meet the teacher and ask if the seating assignments have been made and let your child sit in his/ her newly assigned seat. If it is a totally new school for your child, be sure to visit all of the areas they may be in, such as the classroom, gym, lunchroom, the front office, and the playground.
Continue to talk about school in the weeks leading up to the first day. Ask your child how they are feeling and address their concerns/ fears if any. You could even watch videos or read books about the first day of school and look at pictures of your child participating in school activities from the year before. Mark the first day on the calendar and count down the days and weeks. The more you discuss it, the more comfortable your child will be when the big day arrives.
Start getting your child back into the school year routine a few weeks in advance, such as earlier bed time and earlier wake up time. Ease into these by cutting back by 5-minute intervals.
Have your child make a list of needed school supplies with you and take them shopping. Also, it is important to attend any “Open House” events your school may hold prior to school beginning such as a “BACK TO SCHOOL EVENT SUPPLY and UNIFORM SALE.”
5- Avoid Overload!!!
You know your child best. If you think that the noise and excitement that brews during the first few days of school might be too much for him/ her, talk with the teacher and school about a special quiet place he/she can go when it gets to be too much….I remember as a child my parents always comforted me by letting me know my “time out for me spaces” whether in school, community centers, etc. Each child deals with stress differently and it depends on their ages and temperaments, some kids withdraw, sulk or zone out. When kids are stressed, their first impulse is to relieve discomfort. They don’t sit down and rationally think about the best way to do it. They find relief by acting impulsively or following the paths most readily available to them, the ones they see other kids taking. Most young people simply don’t know more healthy and effective alternatives. Unless we guide them toward positive ways to relieve and manage stress, they will choose the negative behaviors of their peers or the culture they absorb from the media (American Academy of Pediatrics 2011).
Wishing you all a wonderful 2012-2013 School Year!!!!!!!!!!