AKSWB Inclusion - Supporting families of children with additional needs

Preparing for the transition back to school

For some children going back to school may not be a concern, but for others there may be some anxieties from either parents or children.  Children will be feeling the isolation and missing the comfort that the routine of a regular school day brings. All schools will have the children’s mental well-being as a priority, so what can you do as parents to prepare your child for the return to school?

1. It is really important to talk with your child about the return to school; ask them how they feel as if you know what their concerns are, then you can begin to address them.  
2. Some children need routine and become upset with change – you can help prepare your child for this by talking through the changes BEFORE they happen.  Give them plenty of advance notice that they will be returning to school.
3. Schools will not be running in the same way as before so it is important for you to have this information from your child’s school so that you can explain it in a way that your child will understand. There will be differences with timings, play and lunch set ups, maybe all their friends might not be returning straight away, there could be changes to how they are grouped, teachers may be different and they will be asked to wash their hands several times - these all need to be explained as much as is possible in advance. 
4. Sometimes a teacher explaining to a child has more of an impact than you as a parent.  You can request the school to send a video message they can watch where they explain the new set up or maybe ask for a virtual chat with the teacher as this could provide the reassurance they need. Communicate with the school in advance of opening, if your child has any anxieties.
5. Some children may have developed a real fear of leaving home; if this is the case, take small steps – plan an outing close to home before expecting your child to go to school for the day. It might be that on the first day back you negotiate with your child that they will return for one hour only and then build this up slowly– as a parent you know your child best so you are best placed to successfully manage this transition so do what you think will work for your child.
6.  Once they have returned, talk to them about their experiences – how did it feel going back?  What did they enjoy / find challenging?  As parents if we know what our children are thinking and feeling, we can address things at the time, otherwise they can bottle things up and it becomes harder to unpick their worries.

Transitions are not always easy- with good communication and kindness we can support our children for what is to come.

If you are a parent of a neurodiverse child and require support, please contact the inclusion team of the Social Welfare Board on [email protected] - we are here to support you in any way we can.

AKSWB Inclusion- Supporting families of children with additional needs

Strategies to support your neurodiverse child during lockdown

• It is important to help your child understand why their daily routine has changed and explain it in a way they can access it– think about how they understand things; it could be simple explanations, visuals including pictures and symbols. You may find this e-book helpful:

• A lack of structure / routine may cause some children to feel anxious so have a schedule (which you plan with your child whenever possible), outlining household activities, meal times, break times (including free play), activity outside the house and screen time for each day

• A visual timetable can be useful for explaining what your child is doing now, and what they will be doing next

• Give countdowns when you are about to transition to another activity either visually or verbally e.g. a timer may help them understand the start, the end and the transition between activities, perhaps display a stopwatch on an ipad or say ‘in 5 minutes we are going to be making lunch’

• Where possible, offer a choice and use the “first...then” approach so the child feels some control over their day

• Maintain connections that are important to your child; write letters/ emails, make a card or a phone call. Use pictures of important people in their lives (teachers, friends, family) so you can continue to have conversations about them

• Enjoy your child’s company; carry out a favourite activity that they enjoy doing with you

• For children who experience sensory overload, ensure that there is minimal distraction and build in some quiet time in the day as too much activity can be overwhelming

• For those that need regular movement; plan breaks, activities like a hand massage or extra play time in the bath, breathing / relaxation activities or create a sensory diet with your child for them to follow – ideas can be found here: https://www.sensorysmarts.com/sensory-diet.pdf

• Give your child positive attention as they may need extra reassurance at this time or be seeking closer proximity to you; allow them to discuss their feelings openly

• Check in with your child regularly in order to ascertain how they are feeling or whether they have any thoughts or questions they want to discuss or communicate with you

• As the parent, look after YOU, give yourself regular breaks, connect with friends and family, make time to fill your bucket with things that give you energy and make you smile

If you are a parent of a neurodiverse child and require support, please contact the inclusion team of the Social Welfare Board on [email protected] - we are here to support you in any way we can.