Sensory-Friendly Back to School Tips
It’s almost that time again! School supplies fill the aisles of stores everywhere, signaling it’s back to school for our kiddos! School can be an exciting, yet overwhelming experience for sensory - sensitive children. Here are some tips to ease the transition back to school and get out the door on time weekday mornings!
As a parent, do your homework!
- First, make sure you understand your child’s sensory needs and can communicate this information to others when necessary.
- Next, plan a visit for you and your child to the school! Meet the teacher if possible and inform him or her about your child’s strengths and challenges. Explore the classroom and walk the halls. On the first day of school, your child will then be more familiar with the environment and know what to expect!
*** Pro tip! When you visit the school, take pictures and / or videos as you go! Referencing the photos and videos can help your child continually familiarize with the environment.
Ease the transition!
- Go school supply shopping early! Not only will you avoid large crowds, but your child can grow familiar with their new supplies. Brand new supplies on the first day of class presents a potential distraction. Helping your child use their new tools before school begins will add to their sense of comfort and routine!
- A couple of weeks before school begins, get back into a school - like routine. This can include more scheduled times for waking up, eating dinner, and going to bed.
*** Pro tip! Visual schedules are a fun and engaging way to keep a routine. Include your child in organizing a morning and afternoon schedule, then print copies to place on the wall in clear view. You can edit these schedules as school begins to accommodate any after - school sports or extracurricular activities!
Speaking of school supplies!
- Find out if any sensory - friendly school supplies will help your child throughout the school day. These supplies can include pencil grips, chewable pencil toppers, fidget toys, stress balls, writing boards, and wobble cushions. Certain tools might provide the necessary sensory input for your child to increase attention and performance.
- Pick a backpack that is easily manageable for your child. If your child benefits from the added sensation of deep pressure, pick a couple of heavy books or a bag of rice in a tightly sealed container to place in the bottom of the backpack. Pay attention to the total weight of the backpack, however! According to Valerie Lavigne, D.C., a child should never carry more than 10-15% of their body weight.
*** Pro tip! Dedicate a certain area of your home to be a school supply central! Keeping your child’s backpack and supplies in the same spot prevents frantic searching on weekday mornings. Ann Dolin, an education specialist and author, encourages parents to dedicate this “launch pad” to daily school needs, like backpacks, books, homework, lunch boxes, signed forms, and other school - related items. “Launch pads” can range anywhere from a box in the kitchen to a basket by the front door. Find what fits your family’s lifestyle best!
Keep calm and dress for success!
- Include any helpful sensory - friendly articles of clothing in your child’s wardrobe, such as deep pressure shirts and weighted vests.
- Stick to tag - free clothing and undergarments, or personally cut out the tags and remove any stray threads.
- Everyone wants to look and feel their best for the first day of school, but sometimes this means not wearing a completely brand - new outfit! Something previously owned can be calming and more comfortable for your child.
*** Pro tip! Lay out your child’s complete outfit the night before a school day, including any accessories like hair clips, shoes, a certain sweater, etc. This will ease the rush of school mornings and prevent any frustration when your child can’t find a match to a shoe or their favorite green jacket!
Pack lunches filled with chewy and crunchy foods to meet your child’s sensory needs!
- Chewy foods provide work for your child. The effort needed to chew keeps the mind alert as well! Pack bagels, beef jerky, cheese, dried fruit / fruit leathers, and low - sugar granola bars!
- Crunchy foods not only require work to consume, but also provide sensory input to the ears! Pack apples, carrots, celery, crackers, dry cereal, granola, and rice cakes.
These tips and tricks will help you navigate the time ahead to the comfort of you and your child! Preparing in advance, reducing distractions, and providing the sensory input your child need will ease the transition back to school and every day that follows! Happy new school year!