Back-to-school time can be exciting and overwhelming for sensory kids. If your child is sensitive to noise, light, touch, or smells, the new school year can bring some challenges. But with a little preparation, you can help your sensory kid feel more comfortable and ready to take on the new school year.
Here are some tips on how to prepare your sensory kid for back to school:
1. Start with a routine. A visual schedule can help your child know what to expect each day. Get them involved in the process by letting them help create the schedule. Incorporate movement breaks into the routine so they can get out any excess energy.
2. Choose the right clothes. Consider the material of their clothes – something soft and breathable may be more comfortable for them to wear all day. Opt for loose-fitting clothing that won’t constrict their movement. And let them help pick out their outfit so they feel good about what they’re wearing.
3. Pack their school bag the night before. Include their favorite things like a special toy or blanket. Make sure everything is labeled with their name so nothing gets lost. And let them pack their own bag so they know where everything is and feel more in control of the situation.
4. Have a relaxing morning routine. Eat a healthy breakfast together and do some calming activities like reading or listening to music before heading out the door. Avoid rushing.
Start with a Routine.
Create a Visual Schedule
One way to help your sensory kid transition back into the school routine is to create a visual schedule for them. This could include a picture of their alarm clock next to their bed, with an arrow pointing to the bathroom to show the first thing they need to do in the morning. You could also put up a whiteboard or dry-erase calendar in their bedroom or near the breakfast table, listing out each step of their morning routine. For example:
7:00 – Wake up
7:15 – Eat breakfast
7:30 – Get dressed
7:45 – Brush teeth
8:00 – Pack backpack
8:15 – Leave for school
This way, your child knows exactly what needs to be done and in what order, helping to minimize any confusion or anxiety. Plus, having a set routine will help make mornings go more smoothly for everyone involved.
Get Them Involved in the Process
Another way to ease your child’s back-to-school anxiety is to involve them in the process as much as possible. If you’re making changes to the morning routine, sit down with your child and explain why these changes are being made and how they will benefit your child. For example, if you’re going to start using a visual schedule, show them how it will work and let them help you create it. This will not only help them understand and accept the changes, but it will also give them a sense of ownership over their own routine.
Incorporate Movement Breaks
If your child is struggling with sitting still at school or paying attention in class, try incorporating some movement breaks into their daily routine. This could mean setting aside 10 minutes each day for some light stretching or exercises, going on a short walk around the block before school starts, or even just bouncing on an exercise ball during homework time. Adding movement into the mix can help release excess energy and improve focus, both of which are key for success in the classroom.
Choose the Right Clothes.
Consider the Material
The material of your child's clothes can make a big difference in how comfortable they are throughout the day. If your child has sensitive skin, you'll want to avoid materials that are likely to irritate them, such as wool or synthetic fabrics. Stick to soft, natural materials like cotton instead.
You should also consider the weight of the fabric. If your child gets overheated easily, lighter-weight fabrics like linen will be more comfortable for them. Conversely, if they tend to get cold easily, heavier fabrics like flannel will be better.
Opt for Loose-Fitting Clothing
Tight-fitting clothing can be uncomfortable for any child, but it can be especially problematic for sensory kids. Clothes that are too tight can cause a feeling of being constricted, which can be very overwhelming. It's best to stick to loose-fitting clothes that your child can move and breathe easily in.
If your child is particularly sensitive to certain textures, you may also want to avoid clothes with rough seams or other potentially irritating details. Smooth fabrics and simple styles will be more comfortable for them to wear all day long.
Let Them Help Pick Out Their Outfit
One way to help your child feel more comfortable with their back-to-school clothes is to let them have a say in what they wear each day. If they're old enough, allow them to pick out their own outfit the night before school so they don't have to worry about it in the morning rush. If they're not old enough or if you're worried about them picking out something inappropriate, put together a few options for them to choose from each day. Either way, giving them some control over their wardrobe will help reduce their anxiety about going back to school.
Pack Their School Bag the Night Before.
Include Their Favorite Things
One way to ease your child's back-to-school anxiety is to pack their school bag the night before. This way, they won't have to worry about forgetting anything important. Include their favorite things, such as a stuffed animal or a special toy, to help them feel comfortable and safe during the day.
Make Sure Everything is Labeled
Another way to ensure a smooth back-to-school transition is to make sure everything is labeled. This includes their clothes, school supplies, and any other personal items they may need during the day. By labeling everything, you'll help your child stay organized and prevent any lost items throughout the school year.
Let Them Pack Their Own Bag
Finally, let your child pack their own bag if they're able to do so. This will give them a sense of control and responsibility, which can help reduce anxiety levels. Plus, it's a great opportunity for them to practice following instructions and completing tasks on their own.
Have a Relaxing Morning Routine.
Eat a Healthy Breakfast
It's important to start the day off with a nutritious breakfast to help your child focus and learn throughout the day. Try incorporating some protein and healthy fats into their breakfast to help them feel fuller longer. Some good options include eggs, avocado toast, oatmeal with nuts and seeds, or a smoothie with Greek yogurt.
Before school starts, it's helpful to do some calming activities with your child to help them ease into the day. This could include reading together, doing some gentle yoga or stretching, listening to calm music, or spending time outdoors in nature.
Avoid Rush Hour
If possible, avoid any stressful situations during the morning rush hour by leaving earlier than usual or avoiding crowded areas. This will help your child feel more relaxed and ready to face the day ahead.
The first day of school can be a sensory overload for kids with autism or other sensory processing disorders. But with a little preparation, you can help them ease into the new school year.
Start by creating a routine and getting them involved in the process. Choose loose-fitting clothes made from soft, breathable fabrics. Pack their school bag the night before and include their favorite things. And finally, have a relaxing morning routine that includes a healthy breakfast and some calming activities.
With a little preparation, you can help your child have a successful and enjoyable first day of school.