Just as you’ve settled into your summer routine, it is time to switch things up and head back to school! While the structure is welcomed, the transition back is always difficult. It means a new schedule, new faces and new challenges. Below are some strategies for easing back into the school year and for keeping a stress-free environment!
Establish a Routine and Stick to It!
Establish a daily routine for the morning and the afternoon and create a visual schedule for each routine. For example, (1) Use toilet (2) wash hands and face (3) brush teeth (4) get dressed (5) put on shoes (6) brush/comb hair (7) eat breakfast (8) pack lunch (9) get backpack/jacket (10) kiss/hug goodbye. Use a checklist that you and your child can check off as you go through the morning routine. Similarly, an after school schedule is recommended to allow for smoother transitions at home. For example, (1) hang up jacket (2) empty backpack (3) eat snack (4) playtime (5) run errands with mom/dad (6) chores (7) take a bath or shower (8) put on pajamas (9) brush teeth (10) read a book.
Furthermore, choosing an outfit the night before is an excellent routine to adopt. It may help avoid potential problems in the morning; however, always build in extra time in the morning to allow for the unexpected.
Be Fully Present with Your Child.
It’s incredibly difficult for children with special needs, specifically autism to filter out external sounds, smells, and noises; therefore, try to limit distractions as much as possible. Keep the television off while getting ready in the morning. In addition, limit phone calls while you’re trying to assist your child. Practice being fully present with your child, even during times when you’re not in a rush.
Limit Wardrobe Changes
Back to school shopping can be overwhelming. If you know what your child likes to wear, it may be easier to pick up a few new things for them. While shopping keep in mind the texture of the fabric, color, length of the sleeve/pant leg and location of the tag. Another option may be shopping online, so your child can pick out new items in the comfort of your home. Remember to launder new clothing prior to wearing, as many children with tactile sensitivities have difficulty tolerating certain materials, especially denim. In addition, new clothes may not be tolerated immediately. Your child may benefit from a test run on the weekend before wearing the item to school.
Keep Open Lines of Communication
Eating a well-balanced breakfast at home is a primary way to starting the day off right. However, if your child is unable to do so, please send in breakfast and it can be eaten in school. Using the Phoenix Center Communicator to let staff know that your child has not eaten is important so they can be aware of it and make it a priority upon arrival to school. Being aware that your child had a particularly rough morning is always helpful. Similarly, if your child slept poorly, please write that in the Communicator as well.
The Phoenix Center’s parent organization, Partners in Caring (PIC) is always looking for new members. PIC is an active and involved group of parents whose fundraising efforts enhance the students’ program. Each year, this active group sponsors fundraisers to support student assemblies, special classroom items, and the Center’s Staff Appreciation Day in May. To learn more about the PIC program or to get involved, please contact Vikki Raider at 201.542.0743, extension 316.
Take Care of Yourself
This is the key to success. Waking up 15 minutes before your child to enjoy a cup of coffee/tea, may give you the energy you need to help your child get off to a good start. In addition, going to sleep at a reasonable hour and getting quality rest is absolutely crucial for your mental and physical health.
Living with a child who has special needs can be overwhelming. Back to school is an adjustment for everyone, especially caregivers. Hope can be maintained if you are optimistic. If you look for strengths then you will see what is possible and perhaps you might see something that wasn’t there before…a new skill, or interest, a new friendship, or a different smile.