Helping Hands Family

Starting a new school year or moving to a new location can be stressful, exciting, and overwhelming for any kid. Children with autism often exhibit increased sensitivity related to:

  • Routine changes
  • Hyper-sensitivities
  • Unfamiliar environments

It is important to take proactive steps to alleviate the tension and transition smoothly into the new routine. Below are some tips to make the transition to a new school or new area smoother.

1. Prepare in Advance

  • Visual Supports: Empower your child with visual schedules, colorful story boards, or picture cards to help your child understand the concept of moving houses or starting a new school.

  • Visit the New School or Home: Visits ahead of time will help familiarize your child with the layout and surroundings to reduce anxiety about the unknown.

  • Create a Learning Plan Mirroring the School Schedule: Gradually implement a routine that replicates similar elements of their new routine to reduce the stress of abrupt schedule changes.

2. Maintain Routines

  • Rely on Familiar Items for Comfort: Pack a special bag with your child’s favorite toys or comfort items and make sure it is accessible. Allow your child to hold onto their favorite toy on the first day of school or during a move. These items will offer a sense of security.

  • Stick to Daily Routines: Try to maintain the daily rituals practiced before the change, including mealtimes and bedtime routines. This predictability can offer your child stability.

3. Communicate Clearly

  • Use Simple Language: Explain the change in clear and simple language that your child can understand. Don’t use abstract concepts or vague language.

  • Address Concerns: Encourage your child to ask questions or express their concerns. Validate their feelings and provide reassurance that the uncertainty they feel is normal.

4. Plan for Sensory Needs

  • Sensory-Friendly Arrangements: Pack sensory-friendly items like noise-canceling headphones, sunglasses, or tactile toys to help your child cope with sensory sensitivities. Inform new teachers of your child’s hyper-sensitivities, so they can prepare for any challenges.

  • Create a Safe Space: Find a quiet, comfortable space and involve your child in the search for this space. This will allow your child to identify their comfort zone and recognize the qualities that make a space comfortable for them.

5. Involve Your Child

  • Encourage Participation: Involve your child in the change as much as possible. Depending on their age and abilities, they can help pack their belongings for the house move or identify what supplies they’ll need for the school year.

  • Explore: Take walks around the new school or the new neighborhood. Identify parks or other places of interest to help your child’s familiarity.

6. Collaborate with Others

  • Reach Out to Professionals: Discuss the upcoming move with your child’s ABA therapists. They may have additional strategies or resources to help ease the transition. HHF’s ABA services in Mechanicsburg, PA, and our many other clinics have helped families during these moves.

  • Include Teachers in the ABA Plan: Include new teachers in your child’s autism treatment plan, which will reinforce positive behaviors and functional skill progression.

  • Connect with Other Families: Seek out support groups for parents of children with autism who have navigated life changes with their child. Sharing tips and experiences can provide valuable insights and emotional support!

With the tips above, the stress your child feels when moving schools or locations can be reduced! Our HHF behavioral services in Lancaster, PA and our other clinics can help you navigate the adjustment. Our clinical staff have helped families during these moves by sharing tips and coordinating collaboration with your child’s new school. With advanced preparation and collaboration, parents, family, teachers, and caregivers can help a child with autism reduce their stress during a life change.