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Reducing Back to School Stress for Kids on the Autism Spectrum

Parent holding the hand of a child with a backpack

A few tips for making your child with autism's back to school transition less stressful.


Going back to school can be a difficult transition for any child, regardless of their status on the spectrum. The lazy days of summer give way to a more structured day, which some thrive on, but that time period where everything is rush rush rush can leave kids and caregivers at their wits end. Here’s a few tips to make the next few weeks go smoothly:

  1. Introduce your child to their school day.
    Take time to meet with anyone important to your child’s school day – everyone from teachers to administrators, crossing guards, librarians, after-school program leaders – just introduce them to the environment they are about to return to and spend time at the actual school grounds. Take them through the school drop-off circle, walk them around and let them try out the playground, take a spin around the cafeteria, just get them familiar with the school area so nothing comes as a surprise on that first morning.
  2. Plan the transition.
    Adjust your calendar bit by bit to closely resemble the school day. Wake at an earlier time, eat breakfast, and shuffle out the door at a faster pace than typical for summer. This adjusted schedule will help your child avoid shock the first morning of school when they are expected to follow a time table and get going more quickly than usual. Plan your lunch and snacks around when they will be eating at school. Set up a few lessons related to what your child might be learning at the start of school and slowly introduce the topics into everyday life.
  3. Create your own social story
    Create a story surrounding your child’s daily schedule, who their teacher is, and what they might need for their day. This visual aid, with real photos of their classroom and school grounds included, should greatly ease their minds as they enter the school and their classroom. Use this story to incorporate positive social skills and self regulation tips as well – things like sharing and making conversation at lunch, interacting with school personnel, wearing headphones if things get too loud at lunch, asking a teacher for help, etc

Overall, make a lot of lists! It will ease your mind and theirs during this transition time and help you both keep your thoughts organized for a successful school year!