September 20, 2012

Great Expectations - Starting the School Year Off Right

Written by Maureen Bennie  |  Autism Awareness Centre
September is here which means the start of a new school year. Great expectations and high hopes abound. Maybe your child is going to a new school this year or attending school for the first time. Parents and children can feel both excited and anxious. How can you make this year a successful one? What is both reasonable and attainable this school year?
At Home 
  • To make mornings a little less stressful, lay clothes out the night before, make lunches and check agendas for communication, forms etc. 
  • If your child has trouble waking up, set the alarm 15 minutes earlier than needed to allow time to rise. 
  • Post a visual schedule or checklist where your child can see it to know what needs to be done before leaving in the morning - bathroom routines, packing a backpack, dressing etc.

At School
  • Send an All About Me form to school about your child that lists special interests, dietary restrictions, strengths, sensory issues and anything else you think may be important for school staff to know. 
  • Let the teacher know if you are a family that does homework or not. Homework can be a huge stress to family harmony and may not be worth it. 
  • Make the teacher aware of your communication preferences - e-mails, notes in the agenda, separate communication book, or regular phone calls.

Your Child
  • Establish a school days routine. Set regular times for bed, meals, leisure, computer use, bath etc. Now is your chance to change something that didn't work last year since this is a new year. 
  • Create a communication system for your child to know how their day went. Most students I used to teach would say they did nothing in school when asked. With limited communication skills, try circling activities done that day on a sheet. Discuss the weather, make observations. These things help a child develop small talk and conversational skills. 
  • Make time for special interests during the week. Waiting until the weekend can be too long!  

No year will ever be perfect - life is full of ups and downs. By establishing routines, leisure activities, small goals, and reasonable expectations, you're bound to have a year with good memories and positive events.

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