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8 Tips to Preparing Your Autistic Child for the New School Yer

Updated on March 4, 2020
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NurseFlood is a mom of 4, one of whom has Autism and a gluten-free diet, learning to navigate the world.


8 Tips to Help Your Special Needs Child Prepare for the Upcoming School Year

Summer’s end signals the transition back to school. While returning to school is tough for everyone, it is especially difficult for families of children with special needs or autism. Prepare your give your child confidence and transition back to school as smooth as possible.

Follow these 8 tips to help your special needs child prepare for the upcoming school year.

Tour the School

New teachers, classrooms, and schedules can increase your child’s anxiety. Remove some of the mystery with a school tour.

Set up a private tour or participate in an open house or back to school event. Your child can meet the teachers and therapy team, review the daily class schedule explore the classrooms, visit the gym, cafeteria and library, and practice opening a locker.

In addition to the tour, discuss emergency procedures. Your child may be surprised by the loud fire alarm or overstimulated by the disruption caused by other emergencies.

Before the school year, ask if your child can meet the bus driver. Some schools will allow new students to take a test ride — especially if he or she has not ridden a bus before.

Create a First Day Social Story

When your child knows what to expect on the first day of school, he or she may feel more confident to navigate all the changes.

Use a visual planner to help your child understand what to expect Consider creating a visual schedule with pictures that outline the day’s events.

Create your child's own unique social story can include the morning routine, school-day schedule and after-school events. In the week leading up to the first day, review the social story together. Talk through any concerns or questions, and prepare your child for a successful first day.

Connect With the Teachers

Your child’s teachers will follow his individualized education plan (IEP). However, your child is more than the words in this standardized document.

  • Create a snapshot of your child for your child’s teachers and the key staff members at the school.

  • Share details about your child’s life. These notes can include her personality, strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, sensory challenges, triggers, calming strategies, allergies, and other relevant information.

  • Include information and resources that help the teachers understand your child’s disability, medical condition or adaptive devices, like a quick guide to their communication device.

  • Include your contact information, in summary, so the teachers know how to reach you with questions, concerns and progress reports.

Follow Up on the IEP

While you may have finalized your child’s IEP in the spring, review it before the new school year starts. Remind yourself of the goals and specially designed instruction (SDI) in the document.

Additionally, follow-up with school staff to make sure all the supports are in place for the first day — such as the in-class aide, fidget foot bands and behavior plan.

After finalizing these details, schedule an IEP review within 60 days of the beginning of the school year. This step helps your child continue to receive the best possible education from the first to the last day of the school year.

Reset the Clocks

A few weeks before school starts, use a calendar to cross off the days as you approach the start of school.

Adjust your child’s bedtime and wake-up time in preparation for the new schedule.

You may even consider doing a few morning test-runs with your child — including getting dressed, eating breakfast, and preparing for the bus ride or drive to school. These test runs can calm your child’s anxiety; allow you to find and fix any schedule, clothing or breakfast hiccups; and make sure the real first day goes as smoothly as possible.

Purchase Necessary Supplies

Your child may have received a classroom supply list. Purchase the pens, notebooks and other supplies on the list — including unique items requested by therapists, such as triangle pencils or fidget toys.

You can also check that your child has the other supplies that support school success. Wash new clothes, so they’re not scratchy and remove any tags if your child has sensory challenges. Service the wheelchair, hearing aid or other adaptive devices, too, so they’re in good working order. You can also stock the breakfast, lunch and snack foods that nourish your child’s brain and body.

Visit Medical and Therapeutic Professionals

Before the busy school year starts, schedule medical checkups and therapy appointments with your child’s doctors and specialists. Review any health changes, refill medications, and discuss concerns about the school year. Ask your doctors and therapists to complete any required forms, sign releases of information, or make copies of essential records for the school nurse and office.

Early intervention and support are essential to enable your child to thrive. Case studies show the different ways that therapy can promote your son or daughter's advancement.

Organize Paperwork

A good organizational system helps you to advocate for your child. Whether you use a paper filing system or make digital copies, find and share all the necessary papers and documents. These involve your child's IEP, daily schedule, teacher contact information, transportation details, and medical forms.

The transition back to school can challenge your child with special needs. As parents, we want to best support them.

Prepare for a successful first day with these 8 tips to help your special needs child prepare for the upcoming school year.

The most important step?

Try to relax and look forward to a brand new school year.


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    • Bushra Iqbal profile image

      Anya Ali 

      17 months ago from Rabwah, Pakistan

      Great advice for every parent!


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