By Samantha Sallade, Ph.D.
Dr. Sallade is a certified school psychologist who is experienced in evaluating children for autism and other neurodevelopmental challenges. She is the Director of Clinical Outreach of As You Are, a virtual clinic dramatically increasing access to early autism diagnostic services through the use of exclusively telehealth appointments.
The school bells are ringing, signaling the end of winter vacation and the start of a new academic semester. Your family may have taken trips out of town, and you may have been living on a more relaxed holiday schedule for the last couple of weeks. For kiddos who are on the autism spectrum, or who have other neurodevelopmental differences, breaking old routines and starting a bunch of new ones can be a real challenge. But no worries! We are here to help with a few tips to help you ease the transition back to school.
Start your school routine early
I know, I know, it’s not always possible, but if you can limit extreme changes to your child’s routine over the holidays, that will help minimize stress associated with returning to school. If not an option, try to get back to your child’s normal routine at least 1-2 days before school restarts. And don’t forget to fall back on those helpful habits you may have had at the beginning of the year but fade out right before the holidays. For example, if choosing an outfit can be a struggle in the morning, it might be better to lay the outfit out the night before.
Sleep, sleep, sleep
Sleep is super important. School is tiring! Kids with autism can find sleep challenging in the best circumstances, so make sure to continue those good sleep hygiene habits throughout the break – including a calming wind-down routine (even if that’s later than normal) – to help your little one get a good rest each night.
Prep the night before
School-day mornings can be jam-packed with tasks. Create a calm morning routine by taking some of the pressure off. Have your child pick out breakfast and pack the backpack the night before. Having a little bit of wiggle room in your morning can help cut down on arguments and send your little one – and you – off for the day ahead in a positive frame of mind.
Eat a good breakfast
Mealtimes in schools can be tough. Lunch breaks are often short, and there are lots of distractions. Encourage your child to eat a substantial breakfast, in case it takes a while for your kiddo to re-acclimate to school-day lunch routines.
Have a great rest of the school year!
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