First days of school

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First days.
First days of school for a new year.
First days for some beginning school for the first time.
And whilst firsts can be exciting for some, for others there is more
anxiety and concern.
These first days are filled with lots of unknowns and for lots of my
clients and their families, there can be anxiety about a range of things
including: *. do the teachers and support staff have enough knowledge of their
child to support their child,

  • did we had enough time during our transition days?,
  • will my child have a good experience?,
  • what will they do if they didn’t have a good transition day last year,
    can we change their attitude?
  • is it too late to have some more transition days now?
  • what can we do to make sure the new school year in 2021 is positive?
    Having COVID-19 restrictions still in place across schools in 2020 has
    certainly not made this preparation and transition easier, with the
    number of transition days having been reduced for most schools last
    year.
    But in the spirit of controlling what we can, and leaving the rest to the
    universe, there is a few things you can check to see whether these
    things would help make upcoming ‘first days’ positive ones:
  • if you are anxious about your child having a good experience with
    their upcoming first day, don’t share that with them directly or in front of
    them. Be supportive and confident in front of them that this first can be
    a positive experience (vent to others who get your nervousness and
    concern away from the ears of children!) and that all children feel
    nervous about new things, first days and that they have experienced
    these before and things do get easier gradually.
  • ask your school about extra transitions across the summer school
    holiday break-inquire when the school will be open to staff and if it’s
    possible for extra visits to happen in the weeks prior to students being
    back at school.
    Even if the school is empty(in fact this can be quite helpful) it can be
    helpful to see the school environment and get familiar with it before
    students are there. This is one less thing for them to process on their
    first day.
  • Ask if the school can provide photos or video be taken of the school/
    classroom environment so that these can be reviewed later by the child.
    Having visuals to share and talk about, can be really helpful.
  • Can the upcoming class teacher/s have a photos of them and or their
    classroom forwarded to parents via email. Again having visuals to help learn the identify of staff and their role at
    the school can be very helpful. This is especially helpful for students
    transitioning to high school where they go from a classroom teacher to
    7 or 8 new staff members to get to know.
  • See if you can get a map of the school and identify safe and calm
    spaces that the child can spend time in. Having this map also makes it
    easier to ask about their day and help them plan where to go when they
    need to for certain classes or during breaks.
  • Create a Social Story (TM) with the words and photos that the child/
    young person can read/reread as you get closer to the official first day
    (of school).
  • Also if you’ve not already, visit the Positive Partnerships website for a
    look at their checklists and templates and any training you think would
    be useful as this website is all about supporting families and schools to
    understand how to support kids on the Spectrum
    http://www.positivepartnerships.com.au
  • And lastly be prepared with information for your child’s teacher which
    is a 1 page snapshot (brief summary) of your child. Their strengths,
    interests and how they learn best, so it is easier for your child’s teacher
    to get to know them and for them to form a good relationship.
    I hope that these upcoming tips are helpful for school firsts coming your
    way.
    Kate

Published by Kate French

Clinical Psychologist; expertise in autism and child and family psychology.

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