Tips on Returning to School after the Holidays

Holiday break can be a great time to see friends and family and recharge your batteries. Going back to school after the fun and relaxation of the holidays can be challenging for all children and can be particularly challenging for children with autism.

Here are some tips to help you avoid the stress and meltdowns that might come with transitioning back to school after the holidays.

Firstly, the priority for reducing stress, anxiety, and fear that can accompany the return to school is to help your child’s body and sensory system to physically calm and relax. Encourage your child to play, move, climb, jump, and get lots of movement; provide both muscle and resistance (proprioceptive) movements, and those that promote deep touch pressure input.

Use a visual countdown:

 Your child will feel better prepared for the end of the holiday/start of the new term if they can see exactly how many days, or sleeps, they have left. Use a calendar, or a visual chart to count down the days so that it’s clear for them.

Use social stories and visuals: 

Share a Back to School social story with your child, with photos of school and classroom, the teacher and classmates if possible. Prepare your child if they are moving to a new room or have a new teacher. Reminders of routines: morning, school and home time are useful.

Talk about the holidays:

Talking with you child about the holidays: what they did, where they went and who with, and how they felt, will help them to process what’s happened and the passing of time. You could give them a camera to take photographs to look through, or even make a collage or scrapbook of activities and days out.

Do the new term shop together: 

Try on and wear any new school clothes and remove any irritating labels. Check that school shoes/sandals still fit and practice putting them on and off. Clean out the pencil case and fill with sharpened or new pencils and pens.

Ask them to help prepare: 

The night before they go back to school, involve them in getting their things ready; lay out uniform, and pack their school bag with their pens, pencils and books. You could even ask them to help label their new things. Again, this helps to reinforce that the holiday is ending and school is starting the next day.

Relax:

Don’t plan anything big or exciting for the day before the return to school. Try to remain relaxed, with low-stimulation activities and if you, the parent, are feeling anxious about how things will go in the morning, try not to show it. 

If your child is anxious, talk to their teacher and share strategies to help with the transition. 

Settling back down at school is difficult for everyone in the household. Give your child time to ease back into it. It will only be a matter of time before they are back on track.

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