Back to School for children experiencing Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or challenges with transitions

Have you started school and you are beginning to feel unprepared or need a little support?
Check out a recent blog from Violet Hive’s Nissa Jackman, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Registered Art Therapist, about her
"Five Tips for Transitioning Back to School for your Child Expereincing Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Challenges with Transitions.


For most families starting school has been quite the change. The morning routine sets the tone for the rest of our day. This applies to kids and adults alike but especially for ASD kids. Ideally practicing the new sleep schedule and morning routine a week or so before school starts, to reset the internal clock, would have happened. But who are we kidding? Summer is summer and the first day of school sneaks up on everyone. So what can we do now?

1. PREPARE & CREATE A SOCIAL STORY (For those of you who have already started school tweak these tips to meet your current needs)

  • Take your child to visit the school a few days before classes start to meet the teachers and see the actual layout of the school, classrooms, playground, cafeteria, etc. You can do this even if school has started (before or after) to address any concerns or things your child needs to go over.
  • Share information about your child with the teacher and other staff including the bus driver so they can be prepared with some knowledge about your child’s unique needs. Introduce your child to some of their peers who will also be in their class before school starts.
  • Practice riding on the bus, sitting in class, lunchtime, etc. with your child using role-play or social stories.
  • Create a social story (a visual narrative) with pictures explaining what to expect from their school experience, which can be especially helpful for a new school or classroom or teacher in addition to assisting your child with any problem aspects of getting ready for and attending school.


  • Forethought is your friend. Think through moments that have been challenging in the past and try to anticipate things that may help skip those moments.
  • Decide who will guide the morning routine. Morning may be something you prepare for as a family. A point person and consistency is important.
  • Pack it up. Get everything prepared the night before: homework checked, backpacks packed and by the door, lunches in the fridge, clothes picked out ready to go.
  • Check it off! Make a checklist to break down the before-school schedule that you and your child can check off as you go through the morning routine. For non-verbal children, a picture schedule can be very helpful in preparing them for the morning routine.


  • Get plenty of sleep! Avoid rushing and stressing in the morning by preparing in the step above. This will allow you to introduce an extended wake-up process, which parents play an integral part in.
  • Self-care is important for parents. If you are feeling calm it is easier to navigate any surprises or challenges that arise. So, engage in self-care by having that early morning cup of tea, exercise, meditate or eat your breakfast before the kids get rolling.
  • Greet your kids with calm. By giving to yourself you have created an opportunity to share your energy with your kids upon waking.
  • Nix screen time for ALL. Instead of distracting TV or screen time in the morning, try soft music or sounds that are soothing that can be in the background. Try to be fully present for your kids at this time of day, so avoid screen time during this time period as well. Kids that feel seen often feel more regulated.

4. REDUCE STRESS (Why ruin the calm you have intentionally created?)

  • Be ready to go 15 minutes before the actual time your child needs to be out the door. On days when your child is distracted or resistant, this will give you a buffer and may reduce your own stress about getting them to school on time. On days you don’t need a buffer, you will have some time to slow down and relax with your child.


  • Let go of being “right,” of being perfect, of being on time.
  • Have a plan B, C or D.  When things don’t go as planned it can really wreck the flow of things. Sometimes that left shoe is MIA and you have to take some extra time looking for it or negotiate a different choice of footwear, which can often take time.
  • Sometimes your kid refuses to leave the house and they miss the bus. By the time they are ready to go you will undoubtedly be late, so pick up the phone to let the school know. Yes, it’s embarrassing, but these things happen and they can help prepare the teacher or class for when you arrive.

You got this! Give these steps a shot and if you still need more support contact us. We are happy to provide therapeutic services that may help your child and family work together. Also, find out more about Nissa's practice and work with ASD at

Do Good and Be Well,











Amy LeiterComment