Back to school brings excitement as well as anxiety for most children, and even more so if they have various sensory needs or sensitivity. The following back-to-school tips apply to all children and can help you and your children ease back into school.
If your child fits into one of these groups, coping skills and back-to-school tips are even more important: ADD/ADHD, HSP (highly sensitive kids) and kids with SPD, sensory processing disorders. These 5 tips apply to ALL these groups and may be of help to all kids.
Tip #1 – Visit the School and Meet with the Teacher
Visit the school two weeks before it starts. This would be a time to share with the teacher the strengths and challenges your child has in the classroom. If your child has sensory issues, discuss what activities or tools your child might need to cope with their ADD/ADHD or SPD – like weighted materials, fidgets for their hands, visual charts, or alternative seating arrangements like an exercise ball. They might be sensitive to certain fabrics on chairs (like new or scratchy fabrics), and perhaps an older chair or other solution can be found prior to school starting.
If your child has been to an Occupational Therapist, you might bring in suggestions from the therapist that would help the teacher help your child if they are having a hard time. Or maybe your child needs to be near the teacher at the front of the room to pay attention more easily.
Making a strong connection with the teacher will be important for you, your child and the teacher. You want to start out as a positive team instead of being called because there has been a problem. You may wish to ask the teacher if they prefer to communicate via text, phone, or in person if there is something you need to know about your child’s day at school.
Tip #2 – The 10-Day Countdown to Back-to-School
Moving from the “vacation mode” to the “get up and go to school mode” can be eased by starting 10-14 days before Day 1 of school.
Talk about why your child will be getting up a little earlier each day and why they are now practicing the routine they will have during the school year. During this time, reward your child with their favorite breakfast food, perhaps a favorite juice one day and a favorite cereal the next. Each day, go through the routine gradually getting to the point where your child is getting up at the “real” time and feeling comfortable with the routine.
During this process, highly sensitive children will know if you are tense or frustrated. So staying calm and adding lots of praise will help your child feel confident in the routine. You can even practice what to do when they get frustrated with some part of the routine. (see #4 play-acting, role-playing).
Tip #3 – Use visual cues
During your countdown period, if you don’t already have several visual cues on kitchen or bedroom walls, now is the time to begin. The cues will include a calendar, reminders, morning and bedtime routines, and to-dos. Write the day when school starts and cross off each day as it gets closer.
When you meet with the teacher, perhaps some materials will be used at school that can transfer over to the home to ensure consistency between the two environments. Perhaps the teacher will be sending homework with stickers on it. You could have a bulletin board at home to post those papers.
Tip #4 – Role Playing – Practice at Home
I’m sure you remember tough days at school when you were younger, whether you had a sensory problem or not! You can practice all kinds of situations they will experience in school. If it was hard for you to meet kids when you were younger, you can share this – and then role-play meeting a new child with your child. Practice until you can see they know how to say hello and ask if the other child wants to do “x, y or z”.
When you meet with the teacher, you can ask her what kind of activities the children will do together during recess. Help your child by practicing that activity at home. You can also practice calming tips. There is a website www.growinghappykids.com that will have suggestions. The author, Maureen Hayley, has written 2 books or you can read her blogs. These will give you many ideas of what to practice at home. Here is a blog she wrote on Role-Playing.
Tip # 5 – Communicate Early and Often
Talk with your child about school in very specific ways. Instead of asking “how was your day”, ask, “when did you feel appreciated, afraid, or liked today? What was exciting about reading, and what was a struggle? What was one activity today in which you felt really good?”
If your child doesn’t express themselves easily, you can check in weekly with the teacher to see what activities the kids did so you can ask your child more specifics. If daily check-ins are too much, then perhaps weekly will be better, but it’s usually better to err on the side of too many check-ins than too few!
After working for 25 years as an Occupational Therapist specializing in Sensory Processing Disorders, I can report that many kids with sensory problems are ALSO sensitive to EMF. If your child has just entered a school with WiFi and you notice they are having trouble concentrating more at school than at home, they may also be sensitive to the electromagnetic radiation that comes from WiFi, tablets, smartphones, remote controls, etc
One More back to school tip for Helping Your Child
Would you be surprised to know that your child’s mood swings, focusing issues, anxiety or other struggles may be caused or worsened by EMF, Wi-Fi, tablets, and laptops used in the classroom? You probably don’t know if your child is sensitive to WiFi, but we can help you get some answers about overall exposure and risk levels.
They may also be sensitive to the energy of other children, teachers, and even your stress. If you go to our Take The Quiz page, you’ll see that we have one quiz that will tell you about your level of EMF sensitivity and another HSP Empath quiz that will reveal sensitivity in 5 different areas and follow up with specific tips to help create more ease. Both quizzes give you a recommendation for a BioElectric Shield. With our 90-day money-back guarantee, you have nothing to risk and a lot to gain.
The quizzes are for adults and children, so you can take the quiz for your child and then go back and take it yourself!
Written by Virginia Bonta Brown, company president, and Pediatric Occupational Therapist for 22 years.