De-stressing the start of the school year

Everyone feels a twinge of anxiety when they are about to cope with new people, places, experiences and expectations. Here are some strategies to help keep that anxiety manageable for your child with ASD:

  • Acknowledge and accept your child’s feelings. Remember that no one ever “reasoned” anyone out of an emotion.
  • Discuss the fact that school is starting without building too much excitement. Focus on what your child enjoys about school. Keep the discussion positive.
  • If your child likes count-down calendars, create one.
  • Make home a safe haven. Don’t bombard you child with questions about the school day as soon as they come home. Allow a little decompression time.
  • Establish a routine and stick with it.
  • Create a book that addresses what is new and different about school. Use Social Stories™ to reinforce how your child might cope with new challenges.
  • Send a comfort or power item to school, but provide clear parameters on when and how it can be used.
  • Allow your child to wear a tee shirt or other item of clothing that provides comfort, power and protection.
  • Avoid additional new activities until the school routine is well established.
  • Engage your child in planning and shopping for school items. Schedule back-to-school shopping when stores are less crowded.
  • Visit your school. Practice walking to the classroom and other locations that will be part of your child’s school day with your child.
  • Meet the teacher and begin to establish a positive relationship before any issues arise.
  • Let the school know what you need from them. Put your expectations in writing. Make sure they know how to reach you.
  • Decide what you want your child’s classmates to know about him or her.
  • Monitor your own stress level. Practice good self-care. Get a new binder to keep all of your school documents organized for the year.
  • Rehearse communicating with teachers and school staff with your child. Encourage them to express it when something is challenging, hurtful or confusing.

Red River Valley Asperger-Autism Network   www.rrvan.org