Back to school season can be a time of significant change for young students and their families. When a child with special needs begins a new school year, there’s often a period of adjustment as he or she learns to navigate new classrooms, teachers, and classmates. Transitioning into a new school setting can be difficult for any child, but it can be especially challenging for children with behavioral difficulties and learning disabilities. Below we’ve included some strategies that can help your child start a new school year on the right track. 

Create a positive dialogue around going back to school, making new friends, and trying new things

By building a positive dialogue around what is happening and engaging in social support your child can be excited about starting a new year at school.

Take your child back to school shopping

Taking your child back to school shopping can help ease this transition process by familiarizing them with their new classroom environments before they actually start classes in September. Allow your child to bring their back to school supply list, help them make choices of what to get. Creating a sense of control over the situation allows your child to become familiar with a new situation. 

Read stories about back to school

Stories are a great way for children to understand what happens on the first day of school from the perspective of another child depicted in a book. Understanding what to expect can help a child feel more comfortable and prepared for what’s to come. 

Create a “morning routine” visual schedule 

A “Morning Routine” visual schedule allows you to visually represent the activities you have scheduled for your child each morning. The visual schedule board is a great way to organize the morning routine and promote independence in the morning at home.Use pictures to depict: Wake up, brush your teeth, get dressed, eat breakfast, get on the bus, etc. Predictability is comforting to kids and allows your child to know what to expect. 

Use sensory strategies to help your child self regulate 

Sensory strategies such as heavy work and proprioceptive feedback can help your child self regulate, especially during back to school transitions. Heavy work can include pushing a laundry basket full of toys, jumping on a trampoline, or carrying something heavy in their backpack. Deep pressure strategies include tight hugs and squishes on their arms and legs. 

Give them space and time to adjust

Every child is different and will need their own time to adjust. Help your child talk about their day after school, give them space to tell you how it made them feel and address any concerns they may have.

At Kid PT, our occupational therapists work with parents to help them and their children gain awareness of the challenges that may accompany new environments, and give tools to navigate those challenges in positive ways. Our occupational therapists will work with your child to develop skills, strategies and confidence needed to adjust to the school environment. Unsure if occupational therapy is right for your child? Call us to ask you questions or come in for a free consult to discuss.

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