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Back to School

How to More Smoothly Transition Your Child With Autism

Article by Diane Holland, M.S.,CCC-SLP

Photography by StephaMarie Photography

Originally published in OKC City Lifestyle

Transitioning from home to school can be challenging for all children, but especially for children with autism. There are several things parents can do to make the transition easier for everyone.

//Step One

Arrange a visit to the school. Tour all the areas with your child where he will participate. Visit the classroom and let him sit at his desk; visit and allow him to use the restroom that his class will use. If your child will eat lunch in the cafeteria, tour that area. Take a trip to the playground and allow some time to play on the equipment. Take mental inventory of the possible sensory challenges in each of the areas where your child will be (e.g., Does the toilet in the restroom flush too loud and cause a sensory reaction from your child?).

// Step Two

Talk positively about the school experience while on the tour and for the weeks prior to starting school.

//Step Three

Create a social story using pictures that you took on the tour. Write a simple narrative that describes the new routine of the school day. Read and review the story together often before the first day of school.

// Step Four

Create a visual schedule using your photos so the new routine has predictability from day one.

// Step Five

Discuss any of the sensory issues that you identified during the tour with your child’s teacher and other staff. Give your child noise-cancelling headphones, if needed. Plan carefully his wardrobe (this is not the day to wear the new, unwashed, shirt with tags).

// Step Six

Collaborate with teachers; let them know your child’s strengths, specific sensory issues, and any concerns you may have.

// Step Seven

Make sure your child’s IEP is up-to-date and includes services and accommodations that best fit his current needs. Sometimes the IEP that was reviewed in the spring is no longer appropriate for the child’s needs in the fall.

// Step Eight

Relax. Your child (and you) will adjust to this new routine! Give it time.

Diane Holland is the owner and founder of Holland Pediatric Therapy ( and a certified speech-language pathologist.

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