As the new school year approaches, excitement and nervousness often go hand in hand – not just for children, but for parents and caregivers too. For families with neurodivergent children, these feelings can be amplified. At Sensory Oasis for Kids, we understand the unique challenges and strengths neurodivergent kids bring to the classroom. Here are some ideas to hopefully help to ensure a happy and successful return to school for all children, embracing the diversity of all minds and abilities.
Ease into a school-friendly routine a few weeks before term starts. Gradually adjust sleeping schedules and meal times, and introduce structured activities that resemble a school day. Utilise visual timetables or social stories to help your child comprehend and adjust to the upcoming changes. This gradual approach can reduce anxiety and help children feel more in control.
Transitioning from a calm home environment to a dynamic school setting can be daunting for sensory-sensitive children. Collaborate with your child’s educators to create a sensory-friendly learning space. This might include the use of noise-cancelling headphones in loud areas, scheduled sensory breaks, or access to tactile toys and fidget tools to help maintain focus.
Forge a solid communication pathway with teachers and school staff. Convey key information about your child’s preferences, triggers, and coping strategies. Regular updates can proactively address potential issues, ensuring that your child’s specific needs are met.
Embrace technological aids and tools designed to support neurodivergent learners. Investigate options like speech-to-text programmes, reading supports, or organisational applications that can simplify educational tasks and enhance learning experiences.
Engaging Social Skills:
Navigating social interactions can be a challenge for some neurodivergent children. Engaging in role-playing activities or participating in social skills workshops can be an enjoyable way to develop these skills. Encourage schools to promote inclusive environments where diversity is celebrated and all children feel valued.
Identify and nurture your child’s unique strengths and interests. Whether it's a fascination with science, a talent in art, or an enthusiasm for the natural world, integrating these passions into their educational journey can increase confidence and engagement in learning.
Mental Health Focus:
The transition back to school can be a source of stress, making it crucial to prioritise your child’s mental well-being. Teach and reinforce mindfulness or relaxation techniques that can be utilised during the school day. It’s important to balance academic demands with activities that your child finds relaxing or enjoyable.
Advocating for Support:
Familiarise yourself with the educational accommodations and supports available in your child’s school. This may include individual learning plans (ILPs), special education services, or assistance from classroom aides. Advocating for your child’s needs is key to ensuring they have the necessary resources to succeed.
Every child’s back-to-school journey is unique, especially for neurodivergent children. By preparing ahead, communicating effectively, and focusing on each child's individual needs and strengths, we can create a supportive and successful environment for them. Let’s embrace this new school year with positivity and an open mind, ready to learn and grow together.
The Association for Children with a Disability (ACD) is a great source of information and resources regarding your child’s rights and starting school, visit their website here for further information.
We would love you to visit us at Sensory Oasis for Kids for additional resources to help make this school year an enriching and positive experience for every child.