Changing schools is anxiety-provoking for most kids. Some are only mildly affected, while others fret enough to lose sleep. If your child has social or behavioral issues and struggles with any kind of change or transition, attending a new school can feel overwhelming and just too difficult. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help.
Rigid kids with transition issues often have problems with routine disruption, fear of the unknown, a need to feel in control, and low frustration tolerance, to name just a few of the reasons why they struggle with change. To offset this, you can prep your child for a new school with gradual, repeat exposure to the school before the start date. This allows for extra processing time that transition-averse kids so desperately need.
Talk About the Change
Talk regularly about the new school and encourage question and answer chats. If possible, visit with the staff beforehand and arrange a tour of the school. Learn the names of key support staff members and details about help for students who struggle, such as a sensory room for calming breaks or a learning program for attention issues.
Create Visual Materials
Photograph as much of the school as you can. Obtain a floor plan, if possible, as well as a school schedule, handbook, or newsletter. Create a scrapbook for your child to regularly browse through. Bookmark the school’s website and regularly visit it together. Consider writing a social story about changing schools.
Rehearse the New Schedule
Post the new school schedule on the wall and refer to it periodically, talking about what would be happening at school at that moment. Starting the week prior to the first day, have your child participate in a typical school morning routine that includes getting out of bed at the designated time. The day before school begins, continue that routine by visiting the school and discussing the next day’s start.
Prep the School Staff
Once you drop your child off on day one, your prep is finished. However, the work has just begun for the staff. If you have advice you think could aid them in helping your child feel successful, provide it in written form for their reference. List items such as anxiety triggers, calming strategies, and preferred activities so staff is prepared and equipped with useful information.
Even if the first day gets off to a rocky start, your child will adapt – with support. Your preparations will accelerate this process by setting your child up for a successful transition and, ultimately, a good school year!
Information provided by Brain Balance of Corona