School Readiness for Autism | Blog | Special Needs Resources

School Readiness for Children with Autism

Starting school can be challenging in a variety of ways, but for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) there can be several unique challenges that can affect the transition into school. This blog aims to provide tips and support for parents who are facing uncertainty on how best to manage getting their child ready to start school.

Common Parental Concerns

ASD affects how someone sees, experiences and interacts with the world around them. It is characterised by a range of challenges, but the experience of living with ASD is unique from person to person. As such, it is vital to clearly understand the specific needs of your child in order to provide the best preparation for starting school. 

Children with ASD may have trouble communicating and understanding social cues. There may be parental concerns surrounding whether their child will be able to express their needs, ask their teacher for help or participate in classroom discussions. It may also affect a child’s ability to positively participate in social interactions. 

Behavioural challenges also often pose a significant concern for parents of children with autism spectrum disorder. Parents may be apprehensive about how their child’s behaviour will be managed within a school setting. There could be concerns about autism meltdowns, sensory overload or other behavioural challenges that could disrupt their child’s school experience as a whole. 

Starting school also represents a significant transition and routine change, which can pose new and unprecedented challenges for parents of children with ASD. Parents may worry about how their child will react and adapt to the new school routine, schedule, and environment. They may also be concerned about transitions between activities and classrooms within the school.

Alleviating Concerns

The first step to alleviating parental concerns is understanding that there is no one ‘right’ way of managing the transition of starting school. It is also important to recognise that addressing these concerns will require open and honest communication and collaboration with school staff, therapists and other professionals to ease the transition. By collaborating on a plan that works best for the individual needs of the child, parents and school staff will be able to create an environment that is supportive and inclusive to ultimately promote the academic, social, and emotional growth of children with ASD.

Before School
  • Storyboards are a fantastic way to prepare for the day ahead. In the lead-up to the first day of school, practice organising preparation tasks using storyboards, descriptions and problem solving. Avoid using directive language such as ‘get your shoes’ or ‘pack your bag’ but rather, describe the tasks that need completing in a storytelling format.
  • It is important to create and establish a predictable routine for your child. Practice the before school routine to determine timeframes and allow your child to ease into the process.
  • Provide ample transition time between key activities in the morning. Though it may require an earlier wake up for yourself and your child, it is worth having those extra few minutes in the morning to avoid any overstimulation meltdowns. To assist with visual time management, use devices like Sand Timers or Time Timers to manage time throughout the morning.
  • Allow your child to have control over their actions. Offer choices and options, such as sensory regulation activities, to minimise the potential for meltdowns.
  • Utilise positive reinforcement and rewarding of product and good behaviour. Use products like the Magnetic Rewards Chart as a means of clearly visualising progress and positive behaviour. 
During School
  • Maintain a good relationship and open communication with your child’s teacher. Make them aware of any particular habits that your child may have, such as calming stimming routines, signs of sensory overload and any particular triggers for overstimulation meltdowns. Make requests for individualised support, where necessary.
  • Determine with teaching staff, whether it be the classroom teacher or school principal, whether the creation of a sensory corner is possible in the classroom. If not, explore the possibility of making a sensory room at home.
  • Create clear expectations in the classroom, prior to and during school. Use visual support products and positive behaviour reinforcement to remain proactive, to avoid sensory overloads and prevent escalation of a negative behavioural pattern.
  • Make sure your child has a range of products they can take with them to school to help them regulate or manage symptoms. These products can include Theraputty, ARK Therapeutic Chew Toys, Stress Balls, Sensory Fidget Toys and many more. 

All circumstances are different, check out our blog about The Best Sensory Toys for Autism if you’re unsure what products would be best suited to your child. 

After School
  • Formulate a clear picture for your child about what they should expect when they return home from school. Storyboarding is useful to create a smooth transition between school and home, to help your child clearly understand the after-school routine.
  • Allow ample decompression time for your child after school. School can be very overwhelming, especially in the early stages, and it is important to let your child regulate and calm themselves down independently at the end of the school day.
  • Create an environment where your child feels comfortable to communicate about their day at school, particularly about any concerns or successes they may have had in the classroom and playground. Work through any issues that may have occurred that day, and discuss potential, proactive ways of handling them.
  • Encourage independence within after school routines and activities, such as homework, preparation for the next day and decompression. Maintain a consistent bedtime routine to ensure ample rest and rejuvenation.
  • Practice behaviour management through games and resources. Check out the Behaviour Management Pack for a variety of fun and productive games.
Product Recommendations
For the School Bag

The best options for the school bag include sensory toys and tools, anxiety management toys and pocket-sized fidgets. For example, check out the Weighted Pocket Pals that can be easily taken in the pocket or bag for self-soothing and regulation.

For the Classroom

It is recommended that products for the classroom be used with the agreement and awareness of the teaching staff. Visual Countdown Timers can be helpful to understand that certain tasks must be completed within a timeframe, as can Sensory Sensations Sand Timers. A comfort toy that can be carried in the schoolbag, such as Sandy the Weighted Sloth which is lightly weighted for additional sensory input.

Some sensory tools that can be used during periods of sensory overload such as Ear Defenders or Noise Cancelling headphones might be helpful. Having some items for a sensory room or corner that your child may be allowed to retreat to when overwhelmed. Products include Liquid Timers, Expandaball, Body Socks Resistance Bands, or items from the Emotional Regulation Resources Pack. Fidget Bands to put around chairs may help, as well as the Gymnic Disc O Sit or Movin’ Sit, which provide sensory input whilst seated.

For the Home

Products for the home offer a lot of choices and will depend on what your child responds to the most. Sensory Swings provide opportunities for rhythmic rocking in a cocoon like environment. Body Socks can provide the sensory pressure that many on the autism spectrum find comforting. A calming corner could contain a Therapy Tent that provides an enclosed darkened environment to decompress, a Bubble Tube, Liquid Timers, Theraputty, Massage Balls, a Weighted Toy and a variety of other tactile and sensory products that suit the needs and preferences of your child.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top