Any break in routine can really affect some children and even more so those with additional support needs. Transitioning back to school after a holiday can be an especially tricky time especially with dark mornings, bad weather and all the excitement that has come with Christmas and New Year. It takes time to get back into the swing of it so be patient with yourself and your child and hopefully a few of these tips might help as we all adjust back to uniforms, packed lunches, early starts, school transport and packing bags!
Tip 1: Visual routine
You might not have forgotten what time you need to get up, when you need to get dressed or when the taxi is coming but for many children who live in the here and now those things belong ‘last year’ and they need a visual reminder of what is expected and when. Having this in a prominent place days before the first day back and talking about it often can help their minds shift from a holiday zone back to a school zone. For some children this may need to be very simple, even a first/then board but this can slowly progress to a simple sequence. If you don’t have access to images on a computer a simple drawing on a whiteboard or blackboard helps too. It’s about knowing what needs to be done and when and doing things in order.
Tip 2: Start the bedtime routine days earlier
I always felt I was doing the right thing by doing the school night routine the night before my children returned so that they knew what was happening. While there was logic in this it also left my children physically and mentally tired for days and they returned from school the first few days back so tired we struggled to get through dinner! I have now found that returning to ‘school night’ bedtime routines days before school actually returns works much better for us all. It creates that body rhythm that is necessary for back to school and resets their body clocks which seems to be that bit harder during dark mornings and winter weather.
Tip 3: Find the positives!
Getting anyone motivated to get out of bed on a cold wet morning is hard so is it any wonder your special needs child would rather stay home? For many children finding positives at school can be tricky but maybe there’s someone on the bus they like to see, or a teacher who they love, or just something on the lunch menu they can look forward to? For my son school dinners were, and still are, one of his greatest school motivators but for my daughter, it is always getting to have a small toy in her coat pocket to show a friend at break time. Finding and dwelling on the positives and motivators for any child really help make the transition back to school routines much easier and pleasing all around.
The first few weeks can be rocky, emotional and exhausting but remember it does get easier. The mornings will get lighter, the weather will improve and mid-term break will be here before you even realise it.