Adapting to new surroundings may be hard for some children, especially for those with disabilities. Whether it’s adapting to a new daily routine, teacher, or school, these tips may ease your child’s anxiety about their first day, and ensure both you and your little one have a great experience.
The first day of school can be exciting for your child; however, not all children may be eager to attend their first day. Adapting to new surroundings may be hard for some children, especially for children with disabilities. Whether it’s adapting to a new daily routine, teacher, or school, these tips may ease your child’s anxiety about their first day and ensure both you and your child have a great experience.
Before the first day: Try to schedule a trip to your child’s school ahead of time. Let your child meet their teacher (check if there is a “meet the teacher” event before school starts) and learn the way to their classroom and other useful areas like the bathroom, gym, and front office. If your child will need to use a ramp, wheelchair lift, or elevator, make sure they know where these are located. The more familiar your child is with their new school, the more comfortable they will be on their first day. If your child has specific accommodations, establish a good line of communication with your child’s teachers and school administrators. Speaking with the child’s teacher about any Individualized Education Program (IEP) or learning differences will help the teacher prepare.
Morning routine: Before your child’s first day, begin setting up routines so the morning will run smoothly. It is best to regulate your child’s sleep schedule prior to the first week of school to ensure they are getting enough sleep and will be able to wake up on time. If your child is jittery about the first day, do a practice run that includes waking up at a designated time, getting dressed in the outfit they laid out the night before, eating a balanced breakfast, and heading out to catch the “bus” on time! This will help your child know what to expect on their first day of school and how their routine will be going forward.
Lunchtime: Lunchtime can be daunting to some children who are just starting school. You and your child can practice eating lunch by setting a timer for the allotted lunch period. Remind your child that they need to eat what they can during that time, and that it’s okay if they don’t finish everything you have packed. Be sure your child can open any containers (like a thermos) that you plan on packing for them. Go over what is trash to be thrown away after eating and what they should bring back home.
The bus route: If your child is riding the bus, it may be helpful to drive your child along the bus route before the first day. Help your child recognize where their stop is and who gets off the bus at the same stop. Instruct your child to remain on the bus until their stop, and assure them that you or someone they trust will be waiting to meet them at the bus stop. If your child is still nervous about the bus, speak with the driver and make connections with other bus riders so they will have “bus buddies” to help them know when to get off the bus.
School supplies and clothing: If your child works with an occupational therapist and is accustomed to using a certain brand of school supplies, purchase that same brand. As for clothing, if your child is sensitive to some items or has sensory preferences, take care to dress them in clothing that is comfortable for them.
With these tips, we hope your child’s first day of school leaves them excited to learn and helps you worry a little less!
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