Children enjoy following a routine – whether this means having their breakfast at the same time each day, attending school or having an allocated time to play their favorite game before bed. Following a routine is particularly beneficial for children and their development, as it allows them to remain calm and in control. They know what to expect from their day. However, routines are particularly important for children with special needs, such as autism or related disorders. When things seem out of control or scary, it can be comforting to continue with your day and stick to a schedule.
As a result of this, many children with special needs, may have found the transition into lockdown especially difficult and although they may be excited about returning to school, they may require extra support and guidance as they adapt to both ‘the new normal’ and another change in routine.
At Alee Behavioral we have years of experience supporting children with special needs and their families, working together to ensure that each child achieves their highest level of functionality and well-being through a range of programs, from Applied Behavior Analysis to Speech Therapy. With this in mind, we’ve compiled some advice to help you prepare your child for school.
1) Stay Positive
Above all, the best thing you can do to support your child during this difficult time is to stay positive. Try to help them focus on all the good things that will happen when school reopens, as opposed to anything that may be worrying them. Here are some great examples:
- They get to study their favorite subject
- They get to learn something new
- They get to show their classmates how hard they have been working over the break/how much fun they had
- They get to see their favorite teacher again
- They get to challenge themselves
- They get to read new books
2) Fun with Friends
Children learn both inside and outside the classroom, and recess is a great time for them to develop friendships and learn about other people. Spending plenty of time with other children their age is especially important for children with special needs, who sometimes find socializing with others difficult.
However, that does not mean they don’t enjoy playing with their friends. Spending time with a friend – even from a distance – is a great way to help your child feel exited about returning to school. They get to play games and catch up on what has happened since they last spent time together.
3) Set aside time to talk
You know your child better than anybody else and you are able to notice when they are feeling sad or down, even if they cannot verbalize it themselves. In these instances, the most important thing you can do is be there for your child. Let them know that you understand how difficult and confusing this is for them and it is okay to feel however they are feeling right now. Tell them they are free to ask you any questions they might have and that you are always there if you need them.
If your child has a difficult expressing themselves, you may find our previous article helpful, which focuses on helping children with autism understand their emotions.
Above all, it is important to understand that children have struggled just as much as adults have during this time. So, although returning to school may seem daunting, there are many positive aspects of returning to education that they will enjoy the benefits of – from returning to a familiar routine, to socializing and learning.