In the coming weeks, many children will be starting or returning to school. While this can be an exciting time for children, it’s natural that children may also feel anxious or uncertain about what to expect.

If your child has a disability or is on the autism spectrum, you might have extra concerns about preparing them to start school.

While every child and family are different, we asked our therapists for some tips that families can use to make starting school less stressful and more enjoyable.

Let them know what will be the same and what will be different

Check-in with your child about how they’re feeling. Are they feeling anxious or worried?

If they’re feeling worried about being back at school, it can help to reassure them about what will be the same and what might be different. For some children, it may help to go past the school so that they can see and prepare for any changes that may have happened.

Some children may prefer that you don’t talk a lot about school as it raises their anxiety, so take cues from your child about how they might be feeling and support them as they need.

Set a routine

Some children find it more difficult to adapt to new routines and environments. If your child needs help to get used to a new routine, start early by slowly introducing new things or changes, so they have the time to get used to them. This can include things such as wearing their uniform, school shoes and hat for a short period of time each day, getting up earlier to allow more time for breakfast and getting dressed, or going to bed earlier during school nights. Where possible, give your child choices about new changes, so they can develop the skills to let others know what they need.

Getting a good night sleep

Your child is likely to be more tired after a full day at school. Having a regular sleep routine will help your child to concentrate throughout the day, manage their emotions, and have the energy to participate in the day’s activities.

It can help to set a gentle alarm 30 minutes before bedtime so your child knows when to start getting ready for bed.

Helping your child get organised

The night before school starts, encourage your child to get ready for tomorrow. This can include laying out their school uniform, packing their school bag, and thinking about a morning tea or lunch they will enjoy. Some children may need some extra help to build their skills to do this.

Building their independence will help your child to build their confidence and self-esteem. It can also help other family members to get out the door on time for work and school drop-offs for other children in the family.

Pictures or drawings can also help children to know what to expect, or the order they need to do things to get ready by themselves.

Supporting your child

Good communication with your child’s teacher and the school can help support your child’s learning and wellbeing. Speak to your child’s teacher about the best way for you to stay in touch with them, so they can let you know what is working well for your child and what additional support your child needs to be happy and succeed at school.

Support your child to make friends by finding activities they can do with their peers outside of school. Younger children may enjoy play dates with a child in their class with whom they’ve made friends with.

Our therapists offer support for both children and teaching staff in the school environment to help your child to achieve their goals.

In the school environment, our focus is on helping children to enjoy educational opportunities, develop friendships and be actively involved at the school and in the wider community.

If your child needs therapy support, contact us on 1300 179 131 or complete an online form and a member of our Access Team will be in touch.