Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Survival Guide for the First Day of School

Back to school is a stressful time, but it can be especially difficult for kids with ASDs and ADHD. But, now is the time to take a few steps to ensure more success this school year. The beginning of the year is the time to get organized, and to make new friends. Keep these tips in mind before going back to school.
1) The Unknown Can be Scary
Try to familiarize anxious kids with the school environment before the first day. Take a tour, figure out where the classrooms are, stop in to the office or walk by the homeroom.  Some schools might even allow you to meet the teacher. Other schools publish a class list or have an orientation picnic.
2) Take Your Kids to School On the First Day
Most school are packed with parents dropping kids off on the first day. This is your perfect opportunity to meet other parents. Remember, lots of parents are uncomfortable with playdates if they don’t know the other parents. You want to start meeting moms and dads now.
Also, the teachers are looking for volunteers right now. Here’s a perfect opportunity for you to get involved at school and know the parents and teachers better.
3) PTA Events
Many schools have a PTA coffee on the first morning, another chance to get to know people. (Remember, the principal or office staff will probably be there. You want them to know you’re willing to help out and give back.)
4) Be Sure To Go To Back To School Night
Back to School Night is your first opportunity to find out what the teachers expect, how their classroom are organized and to show that you’re a concerned parent. You may not have a chance to hear from your child’s teacher until after the first report cards, so this is an important opportunity.
5) Discuss Lunchtime Plans with your Child
Lunchtime and the daunting cafeteria full of kids at long tables can be the scariest part of the day.  I always suggest kids try to walk into the cafeteria with a friendly classmate if possible. Don’t dawdle or rush there! You child needs to be a part of the crowd now. Some kids bring a small lunch as well as some money so they can either go directly to the table or get in the cafeteria line, depending what their friends are doing.
6) Figure Out How to Communicate with the School
Every school is different. Some have a computerized communication system, others want everything on voice mail or through emails. Set up the system now, so it’s ready when you need it.
7) Plan for PE.
Getting into PE clothes at school can be a stressful experience for shy kids. Find out the requirements at your child’s school and come up with a plan to make your child as comfortable as possible. The teachers may have some tips here, but be discrete. Don’t embarrass your child by discussing this publicly.
8) Back to School Clothes
Clothing makes a statement, and every school has it’s own style. Many kids don’t care what they wear, others want to be dramatic or different. That’s fine, unless your kids have struggled socially. If your child wants to make more friends, it makes sense to dress to fit in. (Don’t do all the back to school shopping early. Get a first day outfit, see what kids are wearing and then shop.) Popular kids set the trends, but less powerful kids may be ostracized merely because they dress too immaturely or oddly.
9) Give some Leeway at Pickup Time
After school is the perfect time for your child to chat with new classmates, or even plan an outing. Try to be there after school, so your child doesn’t have to wait, but set it up that you can wait a few minutes if they want to talk to new friends.