It's that time of the year once again. My kids make their triumphant return to school this week after a very, very long summer. It's one of the many bittersweet moments that my special needs family experiences throughout the year. I say bittersweet because the school year brings with it a much needed break for both my wife and myself. At the same time, there's a huge period of adjustment for my kids. As you may or may not be aware, children on the autism spectrum tend to have a rough time with change. My kids are no exception and typically take a few weeks to adjust to the new routines and schedules. Not only do they have to contend with the new school schedule but also a new schedule and routine at home as well. As the father to 3 boys on the autism spectrum, I face quite a few challenges when it comes to helping my kids through the first few weeks of the new school year. During this period of adjustment, my kids tend to be more easily frustrated and overstimulated. Life at home can become somewhat chaotic because they do their best to hold it together while at school and basically crash and burn the moment they arrive home. Sometimes we don't even make it home before the crashing and burning begins. Some of the biggest things we have to help them with are as follows: 1) New bedtimes 2) Waking up earlier 3) Change in breakfast and lunch routines and schedules 4) Coping with their new classroom schedules 5) Meeting and making new friends 6) Reuniting with old friends These are just a few of the many things that can increase the stress in my kids life when it comes to starting school again. Having said that, there are things that my wife and I have been able to do, in order to smooth this transition out as much as possible. One of the things that we do in our house is to begin switching to the school schedule a few weeks prior to their first day back. This means adjusting bedtimes (if needed) and also the time I which my kids get up in the morning. This helps their bodies to adjust to new schedule over time. Something else that we do is adjust the time they eat breakfast and lunch by using the times they will be eating at school. This is a big deal for our kids because eating at a specific time is very important to them. Again, we start this a few weeks before school starts to give them time to adjust. We also spend time talking about their friends at school and remembering all the fun they had last year. Making friends and meeting new people can be a scary thing for any child, let alone those prone to things like anxiety. By talking about their friends and how exciting it will be to make new ones, it helps to prepare for their classroom reunions. Keep in mind that every child and every situation is different. What works for my kids, may not work for yours. However, I think that these are very common sources of stress for many kids and addressing these concerns slowly and in advance can really help to smooth this exciting and stressful time for your precious little ones.
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