I remember when I was young thinking about getting back to school brought mixed emotions for me. I was not particularly good in school so the academic part was not something I was looking forward to but I was looking forward to shopping for new clothes, finding out who my new teacher was, who would be in my class and the idea of starting something new.
None of these are true for my son except for he’s not looking forward to going back to school period. He asks me almost every day when is it time to go back to school. The anxiety he feels is so intense he will shout out “NO GOING BACK TO SCHOOL” and then bury his face in a pillow. I feel awful listening to him begging me not to make him go but the reality is that he needs to go to school. I am lucky enough to have a social worker who helped me with a few strategies to make the transition a little bit easier:
- Buy your child a calendar and cross off the days until you get to the first day of school. FASD kids like to know what’s going to happen and when it’s going to happen. Let them get used to the idea that the first day of school is approaching and he will know what to expect.
- Create a Social story. Depending on the age of the child use only pictures or pictures with only a few words. Show what will happen that year and what is expected of them. Get them comfortable with the idea.
- Casually use it in conversation with them. For example if you are going somewhere and they are expected to sit for a certain period of time you can say, “This will be just like Grade 1!”
- Role playing. This I found was really fun to do. I would take a turn being the student and he was the teacher and vice versa. I found this to be the one that worked the best for him.
- During the last week of summer holidays call your school and ask the principal if you and your child can come by to see the classroom and the playground your child will be in. If you are lucky their teacher will be there and the two can meet to start a relationship.
- Use this opportunity at the school to play in their outside area and make it lots of fun and somewhere he looks forward to going to everyday.
I started what I could a month ago and now we are one week until school begins. I will keep trying to think of new ways to make him comfortable even after school begins. My wish for him is to feel accepted, understood and to belong with his peers.