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Transitioning from Summer Fun to School Routine: Tips for Parents of Children with Autism

As the carefree days of summer draw to a close, it’s time for families to prepare for the transition back to school. For parents of children on the autism spectrum, however, this shift requires thoughtful preparation. In this blog post, we will explore pragmatic tips and strategies to help ease the transition from summer fun to the school routine, ensuring a trouble-free start to your child’s exciting academic year.

Establishing a structured schedule and visual supports

Research has consistently shown that individuals with autism benefit from structured schedules and visual supports to promote predictability and reduce anxiety (Jones & Jordan, 2011). Creating a visual daily schedule or using visual cues such as visual timers, calendars, or checklists can help children with autism understand and anticipate the daily routine (Broderick & Coyle, 2020). These visual supports can provide a sense of structure and predictability, easing the transition from the less-structured summer break to the more structured school routine.

Gradual adjustment to new routines and environments

Experts suggest gradually reintroducing school-related routines and environments before the start of the academic year (Hemmeter, Ostrosky, & Fox, 2006).

Visiting the school, meeting the teachers, and familiarizing the child with the classroom setting can help reduce anxiety and make the transition smoother (Harris & Handleman, 2000). This gradual transition period can significantly reduce stress levels for children with autism during the back-to-school period, leaving them more prepared to tackle the new schedule.

Communicating with teachers and school staff about your child’s needs

Perhaps your child’s needs have already been communicated with their school, but in the case that the diagnosis is new, open communication between parents and school staff is crucial to ensure that the child’s individual needs are understood and accommodated. Research emphasizes the importance of collaborative partnerships between parents and educators in supporting children with autism (Mays, Hays, Allday, & Armstrong, 2018). Sharing information about your child’s strengths, challenges, and any necessary accommodations can help create a supportive environment that promotes success.

Preparing for sensory considerations in the classroom

Sensory sensitivities are common among individuals with autism, and the classroom environment can be overwhelming for some children. Research suggests that incorporating sensory-friendly strategies in the classroom, such as providing quiet spaces, sensory breaks, and using sensory tools, can help children with autism regulate their sensory experiences and maintain focus (Dunn & Westman, 1997). Perhaps a gentle reminder to your kiddo’s teacher about this could make their transition much smoother. Educators can consult resources from reputable institutions like the Autism Society for guidance on creating a sensory-friendly classroom environment (Autism Society, n.d.).

Supporting social interactions and friendships during the school year

Social skills development is an important aspect of a child’s school experience. Research highlights the significance of fostering social interactions and friendships for children with autism (Bauminger & Kasari, 2000). Collaborating with teachers and school staff to provide opportunities for social interactions, such as structured playtime or social skills groups, can support the development of social skills and enhance peer relationships. Perhaps putting these activities into your child’s planned schedule would be a great idea, so that they are aware and prepared for it.

These strategies are some suggestions for proactive preparation for the back-to-school transition. Remember, each child is unique, and it’s essential to tailor these tips to meet your child’s specific needs. For more personalized guidance and support, consult with professionals specializing in autism therapy or reach out BASS ABA Therapy, we can help! Hopefully with these tips, you can help make your child’s transition a successful one!

References: Bauminger, N., & Kasari, C. (2000). Loneliness and friendship in high-functioning children with autism. Child Development, 71(2), 447-456. Broderick, A. A., & Coyle, L. (2020). Visual supports and structured teaching strategies in the classroom. In L. Coyle (Ed.), Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Mainstream Classroom (pp. 75-95). Springer. Dunn, W., & Westman, K. (1997). The sensory profile: The performance of a national sample of children without disabilities. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 51(1), 25-34. Harris, S. L., & Handleman, J. S. (2000). Age and IQ at intake as predictors of placement for young children with autism: A four- to six-year follow-up. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 30(2), 137-142. Hemmeter, M. L., Ostrosky, M. M., & Fox, L. (2006). Social and emotional foundations for early learning: A conceptual model for intervention. School Psychology Review, 35(4), 583-601. Jones, G., & Jordan, R. (2011). Implementing a structured approach to teaching visual schedules to children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 41(3), 350-359. Mays, K. A., Hays, C. L., Allday, R. A., & Armstrong, A. P. (2018). Autism inclusion: Teacher attitudes and collaboration. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 48(3), 669-679.