Living With Autism and Other Special Needs: Back to School Tips

Most parents look forward to the end of August because it is back to school time.

Back to school time for parents with children who have special needs can be a mixed blessing. Transitions and change are difficult for all children, but particularly children with autism.

Here are some tips for parents to help make back to school time more pleasant for you and your child with autism.

  1. Begin getting into the school routine early. Make a picture schedule of the morning routine and start following it. Start getting up a little bit earlier each day and going to bed earlier at night. This will make thing easier instead of waiting until the night before school starts and saying, “School is tomorrow. You need to go to bed at 8:00” when your child has been staying up until 10:00.
  2. Think twice before purchasing new school clothes. In my experience children with autism do not generally like the feeling of new clothes. To send a child to school with all new scratchy clothes might be a bit of sensory overload. Instead, consider buying used clothes or washing them several times before school starts. Encourage your child to wear his new clothes and shoes at home.
  3. Consider getting a haircut early. Some children with autism don’t like getting haircuts and if they start to associate haircuts with school it will add to their anxiety.
  4. Glasses If your child wears glasses, and he doesn’t wear them during the summer (which I don’t recommend), have him wear them at least a week prior to school starting.
  5. Read books and watch t.v. shows about going back to school.
  6. Make a social story featuring your child and read it to him every day. Social stories are helpful for children with autism because it helps them prepare for things that are going to be different. You can include photos if you wish. Here is an example:
  7. Summertime is almost over.
    Kevin is getting ready to go back to school.
    On August 24 th Kevin will ride Bus 456 to “Canyon Elementary School.”
    “Kevin’s” teachers this year are Mrs. Brown and Mrs. Jones.
    Kevin’s Dad bought him new shoes for school.
    Kevin’s Mom bought him new clothes for school.
    Kevin is getting ready to go back to school.

  8. Use a calendar to mark down the days until school starts. Put a picture of a school bus on the date of the first day of school.
  9. Make plans to meet the teacher ahead of time. For tips on meeting the teacher, read my article Meeting the New Teacher.