If your child is going to a new school for the first time, whether its pre-school, kindergarten, or if they’re going to a new school due to advancing to middle or high school, a good way to reduce anxiety is helping your child familiarize themselves with their new environment and any foreseeable routines associated with their new school.
New Faces and New Places
For ASD children going to a new school environment for the first time, it is important for them to have a familiarity with the environment and the individuals that they will come in contact with. You can help your child become familiar in several ways. One way to get your child acclimated to the environment is to schedule one or more trips to the school before school starts. During the visit, have them spend time in the classroom and other spaces that they will spend a majority of their time. Have them meet their teachers in advance. Make sure you set your child up for success by making sure that the school is aware of any IEP, or if you do not have an IEP, but your child still needs accommodations, be sure to request them. My son never had an IEP, but at the beginning of each school year I met with his teachers to discuss his needs in the classroom, including asking that he sit in the front of the class so that he was less distracted and allowing him to pass on using graph paper in math classes (the squares were too much of a distraction for him). Ask to have your child’s seat assigned early and request that he or she can decorate it or bring in small items to place in or on the desk that are familiar and comforting to him or her. Ask whether there are any families who might be willing to meet your family in advance so that there’s a familiar face for your child. Take photos while your there and use the photos to discuss school with your child. If your child will be changing classrooms for different subjects, this could be overwhelming. Asking the school to allow you to practice this routine might be helpful. If your child will have in-class assistance with a TSS or other therapist, be sure to have that person come and meet the teachers. It is not uncommon that teachers feel a little uneasy about other individuals being in their classroom. Facilitating positive relationships among all parties who are helping your child is key.
These tips may not alleviate all of the anxiety of starting school in a new environment, but they may help.
My next post will address parental anxieties associated with sending your child to a new school for the first time.