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10 Tips for Starting Off the School Year Right
By Julius Odtojan

School is back in session! And we have a feeling this will be your child’s best year yet. Don’t let the summer blues get you or your child down this fall. If your child has autism or behavioral challenges, by following the below tips, you can ensure that this year starts off on the right foot!

1. Prepare your child for the school year. Start talking about school at least two week before school starts. Transitioning from summer vacation to school can be difficult for a lot of children. Going over changes will help avoid confusion when school starts. Talk with your child about the new teacher, the classroom routines, and any additional information that is important for your child.
2. Use visual aids. Take pictures of your child’s school and teacher so that you can review these pictures when talking about the school. Using visual aids, such as pictures, can help children comprehend the concepts you are reviewing. Showing your child these pictures can help facilitate the transition back to school.
3. Make a cheat sheet. Make your child’s teacher a “cheat sheet” of the most important information about your child. Include information such as reinforcers, triggers for problems and calming strategies. Keep it short and focus on main points. This “cheat sheet” can be broken down into sections will bullet points to make it a quick read.
4. Share your child’s IEP. Provide the teacher a copy of your child’s IEP and highlight any important areas. Teachers are very busy at the beginning of the year, and highlighting important areas will give the teacher a quick summary of the important topics in the IEP.
5. Exchange contact information. Get the teacher’s e-mail address within the first few days of school. When providing the teacher your contact information, it is a great time to get their e-mail address. Store this information in a safe place; you never know when you are going to need to contact the teacher.
6. Make yourself available. Give the teacher your phone number, cell phone number and e-mail address. This will allow the teacher to choose the form of correspondence that works best for them. Stress that you are available if they need to contact you with questions or concerns. It is best to have open communication with your child’s teacher so that you can address issues as soon as they occur.
7. Check in. Send the teacher a quick e-mail to check in and see how things are going during the first few weeks of school. Doing so will open the lines of communication with the teacher. The beginning of the school year can be hectic for everyone, so a quick e-mail is a great way to touch base.
8. Create a social story. Use pictures of your child’s school and clip art to make the social story more exciting and teach appropriate behavior at the same time. Include any areas where your child has difficulty. For example, if your child has trouble with sitting in the chair, you would include a picture of your child sitting in the chair at school and write, “My teacher is happy when I sit in my chair.”
9. Review appropriate behavior. Remember to talk with your child about appropriate behaviors before school every day. Review areas that are difficult for your child. For example, if you child runs in the classroom, you would say, “We need to walk in the classroom, but we can run at recess and PE.” You could also ask your child questions about appropriate school behavior. For example, you would say, “Where can we run at school?” and, “Where should we use our walking feet?”
10. Set a play date with a classmate. Connect with other parents and set up play dates with classmates. This will provide additional opportunities for your child to practice appropriate play. Include activities that your child enjoys and remember to help your child engage in appropriate play with the peer.

By Leigh Sams Ashley, MA, BCBA