As the new school year approaches. Pam Modugno, OT, has help for parents of kids who are on the autism spectrum or have sensory issues. And really, her advice is useful for all parents and all kids.
“Start what will be the new school routine early,” says Pam. “The week before school begins, start going to bed and waking up at the new times. Start eating breakfast earlier. Have your child get used to new clothes. Pack lunch in the lunchbox your child will use. If there is a half hour lunch period, set a timer and use it to help with time management.”
Pam suggests parents think about all the upcoming changes and allow the child to be involved with getting ready.
“Have your child think about the school menu for the week, so you can buy and have ready what the child needs and likes.”
She also suggests that you spend some time on reading and writing skills every day, even if it is only 10 or 20 minutes.
Work on Social Skills
“Work on social skills. Ask your child, ‘How was your summer?’ and practice the give and take between people having a conversation.”
“Create social stories. ‘What’s going to happen when you go to school?’ and think about new challenges your child might face. In middle school, there will be a locker, and switching classes. Ask your child ‘What are you excited about?’ and ‘What are you worried about?’ so that you can help reduce the fear. You can tell you child about your back-to-school experiences.”
For kids without much language, Pam recommends a visual schedule with a picture board. Use a picture of a toothbrush for tooth brushing time, a lunch box for lunch time, and so on.
“Have your child pick out clothes for the first week and try them on. Remove the tags. Wash and soften them up if they are itchy. Wear the new shoes a bit to break them in. Kids are used to wearing flip flops!”
“If your child is going to a new school, drive by to see it. Go to the bus stop. Even with all of this planning, for some kids you may want to make it really easy. Leave shoes at the door. Set the lunch box and anything else they have to bring at the door.”
Pam’s advice is so thoughtful and reasonable that it really will help every parent and every child, not just kids on the spectrum.