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  • Writer's pictureKathleen Boothman M.C

Back to School: 10 Tips for Kids with ADHD, Autism, and Learning Disorders

As the lazy days of summer wind down, the excitement and apprehension of the back-to-school season are feelings that children, parents, and guardians alike are well familiar with. It's time to prepare for the school year ahead, and for children with unique learning needs such as ADHD, autism, and learning disorders, this transition can be particularly tricky. Today, we'll explore actionable tips and insights to help all kids with their own unique strengths and quirks get ready for school, while prioritizing their mental and physical well-being. 10 Back to School Tips

1. Understanding the Adventure Ahead Picture this: your child, a backpack full of dreams, and the grand, unpredictable ride of the school year. Now, for many kids, this adventure can be more stressful than it is exciting. There might be worries about making friends, handling sensory overload, or staying focused in class. Knowing and understanding these unique challenges sets the stage for a tailored action plan. It may also be a great time to consider a psychoeducational assessment to help you better understand exactly what your child's strengths and needs are.

2. Nurturing Those Bright Minds and Warm Hearts Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let's talk heart-to-heart. Mental well-being is the heart and soul of everything. Kids need a little extra TLC in the form of mindful moments, those quiet times when they can just be. Incorporating mindfulness techniques, relaxation exercises, and open conversations about feelings can help alleviate worries and stress. Using calming techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery can help build their regulation toolboxes before they even enter the classroom. Itโ€™s important to remember that these strategies need to be practiced regularly so that kiddos are ready to use them when they are needed!

3. Establishing Predictable Routines For children with ADHD and autism, maintaining routines is crucial. Consistency helps them feel secure and reduces anxiety. Now, we're not saying you need to stick to a strict schedule โ€“ it's more about creating a comforting rhythm. Visual schedules, those colorful roadmaps of their day, can be game-changers. They're like treasure maps guiding your child through their school adventure. Make sure they're tailored to your child's age, development, and executive functioning skills.

4. Team Up with Educators and Other Professionals Communication with teachers and school staff is paramount. Sharing information about your child's unique needs and preferences allows educators to tailor their approach. Collaboratively developing strategies, accommodations, and Individualized Program Plans (IPPs) ensures a supportive learning environment. This may also be a great time to check in with a mental health professional to help develop individualized strategies. It really does take a village and getting all of your child's supports on the same page helps them develop trust with the adults that are there to support them.

5. Social Skills Preparation Ah, social skills โ€“ that essential backpack item for school success. For children with ADHD, autism, and anxiety social interactions can be daunting. Role-playing scenarios and practicing appropriate responses can help enhance social skills. Encourage them to express their feelings and listen actively to others, fostering positive relationships with peers. Social skills groups are a great place to practice these skills with kids their own age while giving them the opportunity to build a community of people who truly understand them.

6. Sensory Sensitivities Many children struggle with sensory sensitivities. Collaborate with teachers to create a sensory-friendly classroom environment. Providing sensory tools such as fidget toys or noise-canceling headphones can help children focus and feel comfortable. Many schools have these already, but you may have to supply them for your child. Consider encoporating some of these strategies into home routines as well. The process of getting out the door in the morning or falling asleep on sunday night can be greatly improved with a couple of simple tweaks to the environment.

7. Homework Hacks and Study Strategies Ah, homework โ€“ the quest that all kids must face. For many kids, it can be a dragon to conquer. Break tasks into manageable chunks, use visual aids for instructions, and implement short breaks to maintain focus. And remember, a cozy study corner can turn studying into an adventure of its own! Sometimes a change of location is also helpful and a trip to the library or a special coffee shop can make the experience a little bit more fun. Remember, not all kids learn best while sitting at a desk!

8. Encouraging โ€œI Can Do It!โ€ Moments Independence is a precious gem you can give your child. Guide them with organizational skills โ€“ think planners and calendars โ€“ and let them take the reins step by step. Every "I did it!" moment is like adding a shiny gem to their backpack. Introducing these tools often requires lots of support, especially for those kiddos that struggle with executive functioning. Some fun stationary can go a long way when motivating kiddos to practice these tools.

9. Self-Care and Stress Management Self-care seems to be one of those popular terms lately, but it really is important! Identifying and teaching healthy coping strategies can start early. Encourage physical activities, connecting with nature, hobbies, and spending quality family time together. Teaching coping strategies empowers children to handle stressors effectively. Remember a healthy mind and body go hand in hand.

10. Celebrating Achievements Acknowledge and celebrate both small and significant achievements. Positive reinforcement boosts confidence and motivation. Whether it's completing a task independently or making a new friend, recognizing these accomplishments encourages continued progress. Try to aim for a 5:1 ratio of positive reinforcement to constructive criticism. This magic ratio builds confidence, resilience, and close relationships with caregivers. As the back-to-school season approaches, parents and guardians can implement a variety of strategies to ensure a smooth transition. By focusing on mental health, establishing routines, collaborating with educators, enhancing social skills, and addressing sensory sensitivities, parents can provide the support necessary for their child's success. Remember, each child is unique, so tailoring strategies to their specific needs is key. With the right guidance and nurturing, all children can thrive academically, socially, and emotionally in the school environment For more resources check out: https://www.asha.org/news/2023/how-to-build-back-to-school-readiness/ https://www.siparent.com/back-to-school-readiness-checklist/ https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/when-your-adult-child-breaks-your-heart/202209/navigating-the-back-school-transition Hereโ€™s to a year of learning, growth, and adventure!


What's your top tip for the back-to-school season? Share in the comments below, and let's create a supportive community for all our children! Interested in speaking with a qualified mental health professional? Check out our team here or call us today at 1-833-465-4336.

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