The new school year means a change in routine, not only a change from the holiday routine but a change from last year as well. Children may be faced with a new classroom, new schoolmates, new teacher(s), new routines, and new goals. Transitioning from the school holidays back into a classroom, or beginning school for the first time, can be particularly difficult for children and families living with FASD. The Edmonton and Area Fetal Alcohol Network Society compiled these tips to help prepare families for the transition into the school year:
- Start a ‘Back-To-School’ count down calendar. Children with FASD often struggle with changes to routines and schedules. To avoid any ‘surprises’ create or use an existing visual calendar. Have the child cross-off the days during the last two weeks of summer holidays as the first day of school approaches.
- It is important for children with FASD to feel safe and secure in their learning environment. This includes knowing and understanding the physical structure. Where are the bathrooms, the gym? Where do they begin their day? Set up a tour of the school to allow your child to see the buildings and all those rooms and places they will need to navigate.
- Prepare! Two weeks before the start of school begin using a schedule (for example, wake-up times, breakfast time, lunch times, snack times, bed times) and the complimentary routines (for example, getting dressed in the morning, brushing teeth, packing the schoolbag) that are similar to what the school days will look like. Don’t forget that a posted schedule, visual routine reminders and step-by-step instructions can help to ground your child in time and space and assist them to accomplish their daily tasks.
- Communication, communication, communication! Every child with FASD has their own unique challenges and strengths and it is important to share these with educators so that your child’s learning experience can be based on their needs.