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Back to school OT tips

Back to school OT tips

It’s getting to that time of year again! School will be back on very soon, and this brings up a mixture of reactions and feelings. Usually, parents are pretty happy to get back to a routine and have some more child-free time. Kids are often excited about being in the next grade up, having a new teacher, or seeing their friends again. But what happens when your child is anxious about the impending first day back? What if there is more worry and fear than excitement? Read on for some strategies to help ease the transition into the new school year.

Prepare in advance

Most schools are great when it comes to supporting children who need lots of warning about big changes. If you can find out earlier who your child’s teacher will be, great! Take pictures of him/her, and ask to visit the classroom before school starts if possible. I will often create social stories for my clients with photos of the classroom and other important things.

Involve your child

Take your child shopping for a few new things for the school year. You could incorporate any special interests that they have, e.g., buy a Batman themed pencil case or a My Little Pony lunch box. Let them choose so they have something to be excited about.

Practice coping techniques

The best time to learn and absorb information is when we are calm and relaxed. Practice coping techniques with your child during these times at home, well before the first day. Some examples include visualisation, deep breathing, self-squeezing, affirmations, using fidget toys, or asking for a break. The more automatic these techniques or strategies become, the more likely they are to be used in times of stress. I often work with my clients and families to determine which coping strategies will work best for them.

Have external supports ready

If your child will need visual schedules, sensory breaks, or any other external supports, ensure these are organised before the first day. This is something that I often assist with in my role as an OT, but often schools will have their own staff to do things like making visual schedules. Find out how it works at your school, and engage outside help if needed. Also think about what kind of supports might help with the morning routine at home. What kind of sensory input might your child need before getting ready? Would they benefit from routine visuals? Chat to your OT for individualised help with this one.

Mental health days

If your little person is going into their first year of formal education, or their first year of full-time schooling, remember to listen to your parent/carer instincts. If they need a day off, let them! With so much to take in and so much new information going through their little minds, sometimes a day of doing nothing can be just what the doctor ordered.

I would love to hear what’s worked for you. Please comment below and share your experience!

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