Scattered pencils over a blue background with red letters that read, "Back to School".

Preparing kids for back to school is challenging – especially for kids with autism.

Whether it’s getting into the school routine, starting in a new classroom with a new teacher, or the anticipation of social situations and dynamic environments.

To help make this year the best year ever, we spoke to an expert on setting students up for success in the classroom and we are sharing her tips with you!

A woman with brown hair and a grey sweater sanding on a beach.
Special Education teacher Laura Seckington

 

Laura Seckington is a special education teacher in the York Regional School District in Markham, ON. She has the privilege of teaching a class just for students with ASD. She also shares tips for teachers on her blog – asdteach.com – and is active on Twitter at @asd_teach.

We caught up with Laura as she was preparing her classroom for back to school.

What are some tips for parents and they prepare their kids for September?

A cartoon image of a boy and a girl standing in front of school. The text above the school reads, "A social story about... going back to school"
A social story about going back to school. Photo cred: Project Autism

 

Often kids settle into a routine they like during the summer and the transition to a new school routine can be difficult.

Laura recommends getting back into a routine early. Implement the same bed time routine, same wake up time, breakfast time, etc.

And start to get back into a school focus by incorporating some “academic” activities, like reading together.

Bonus tip: Laura loves social stories to help show what school will be like. Here is a great example of a back to school social story.

 

What can parents do during the school year to support learning?

“Parent engagement is so important. I recommend it 100%. It is so helpful.”

Laura recognizes that it can sound like extra work for parents, but it doesn’t have to be! Little things like picking up a cue or a prompt to practice at home are simple yet powerful ways to support learning.

Practicing skills at home really helps students meet their learning goals faster.  Take social skills, for example. If Laura can share the cues that she’s using for “saying hello” and the parent can use the same at home, the student will practice more often and master the skill faster!

Without parent engagement, it can feel like the school environment is disconnected from the rest of the student’s life. And it shouldn’t be! Everyone is on the same team to support students to learn important lifelong skills that will help them be healthy and independence!

If there is one big tip to make this year the best year ever, what would it be?

Laura implements back-and-forth communication notebooks with all her students’ families. She summarizes all the activities they do during school for the parents. At home, parents summarize if there is anything important the teacher should know for the next morning.

This opens lines of communication to keep everyone working towards the same goals. Laura tells us that the parents are always surprised at how much their kids do at school during the day. And reading the parents’ notes each more helps teachers plan for the day ahead.

Another bonus tip:

Laura had one student whose mom prepared ‘advocacy cards’ for all her kid’s teachers. This card helped all teachers and support staff get to know the student better so he could focus on learning, instead of explaining his needs.

The advocacy card is a simple summary of who that student is and their unique strengths and needs. It includes a picture, their likes, their dislikes, and any modifications and accommodations they may require.

An example of a modification on an advocacy card:

“I like to wear headphones when I’m writing a test”.

If a student is writing a test with another teacher and they bring out their headphones, they can focus on the test instead of explaining what their modifications are!

Here is a great example that Alyssa Brady posted on her blog, The Adsons, of the advocacy card/cheat sheet she made for her son. She even put extra effort in to include all the ASL signs her son can sign!

A screenshot of a blog page, with the text "School 'Cheat Sheet'"
Click the image to see the video on Alyssa’s blog!

 

Thanks for sharing your tips with us, Laura! We’re so grateful that students have incredible, passionate, and resourceful teachers like you.

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Did you know that the Reveal Stories app is a free resource for you that is designed specifically to facilitate communication between parents and teachers? It acts as your secure digital communication notebook to share information with your trusted care team. It even includes a digital ‘advocacy card’ to help all members of your care team understands your unique child’s strengths and needs. Try it today!

 

Download on the Apple App Store here.

Get started online on Android or your computer here!