How to Prepare Your Child with
Autism for a New School Year

The first day of school can be an exciting — and understandably anxious time — for both you and your child with autism. Preparing for the start of the school year for any parent can be stressful as you want to ensure your child has all the resources and support they need to succeed. For children with autism who experience unique challenges, a transition to their new surroundings can be especially difficult.

Here are a few ways to help prepare your child for the start of the new school year:

Introduce School Concepts

Introduce School Concepts

The best way to transition your child from summer to a school setting is to introduce them to school activities and surroundings before they step foot in the classroom. There are a few ways you can begin exposing your child to routines they’ll encounter as they head back to school, including:

Children diagnosed with ASD non-vocal

Introduce School Concepts

The best way to transition your child from summer to a school setting is to introduce them to school activities and surroundings before they step foot in the classroom. There are a few ways you can begin exposing your child to routines they’ll encounter as they head back to school, including:

Build Familiarity with School Materials

Build Familiarity with School Materials

Focus on overcoming sensory issues related to school that are common for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Try exposing them to certain types of clothing they may have to wear to school or any backpacks or lunch boxes they will have to carry that may be new to them. Early familiarity with these types of items can help get them used to and excited about these school materials.

Experience the Classroom Setting

Experience the Classroom Setting

It can also be helpful to introduce your child to the classroom setting. If possible, you can build familiarity with their classroom and teachers by visiting the school ahead of time. Even if you can’t tour the school during the summer, it would help to begin a conversation with its teachers about your child’s needs. Teachers can benefit from clear instructions on how to interact with your child before meeting them.

Besides in-person tours or interactions, you can also use social stories or show your child pictures of their classroom to help generate excitement about going back to school.

Slowly Introduce a School Routine

Slowly Introduce a School Routine

Quickly transitioning to a new schedule can be hard for children with autism to adjust to, so early preparation can be extremely helpful.

You can start by taking time each week to prepare and organize their lunches, snacks, school clothing, supplies, and anything else they need for their school day. This will help them get used to their new routine and you’ll have more time to help them get ready each day.

Practice or “Play” School

Practice or “Play” School

It may even be helpful to play pretend school with your child to get them used to reporting to their teacher and following along in the classroom. Timing activities, even a lunch break, can also get them accustomed to a typical school schedule.

If your child struggles with social situations, you can expose them to different social settings before school starts. This could include arranging play dates or taking them to local spots they have interest in to socialize with their peers: anything that can create positive experiences for them that they can extend to the classroom. One key element to remember in all your preparations is to use positive language and constant encouragement.

Mother and daughter using visual supports for non-vocal children

Need Help Getting Started?

Starting school can be challenging for children and parents alike — especially for children with autism who have unique challenges to overcome. If you need guidance to help your child with autism prepare for school, our experts at the Cardinal Center for Behavioral Health can help.

Taking into consideration their individual and functional needs, our Academic Classroom program can help your child with autism easily transition to a general education and public-school setting. Our individual Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy or group ABA therapy can also be a good starting point to help develop a foundation for their communication, social, and life skills.

Learn more about how to set your child up for success with our Academic Classroom Program.

Mother and daughter using visual supports for non-vocal children

Questions?

Get in touch. We're here to help.