Returning Back to School

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How to Ease ‘Back-to-School’ Anxiety


Marie Penman

19th August 2022


Now the holidays are coming to an end, children will soon be making the transition to a new school year. Some will be starting a new school and/or transitioning to secondary school. This includes children with special needs or children who have recently been diagnosed with autism.

The start of a new school year is an exciting, yet anxious time for both parents and children. It can bring a change in the daily routine that has become established over the summer months. The transition from primary to secondary school for children with autism can be especially challenging for families.

While change can be difficult, the following tips may help prepare a child with autism for their new school year and make the transition back to school a little easier.

It is important to note that, like non-autistic children, children with autism can be different from one another. Therefore, what works for one child, may not work for another. Pick and mix according to what will help your particular child.


1. Be Prepared

Ensure your child knows the school they are going to and how to get there. Show them a picture of their teacher and any classmates, if possible. Drive by the school or take a bus ride together a couple of times, if this is the way the child will travel to school, to familiarise them with the routine so it’s not a new route on the first day of school.


2. Plan Ahead

Think ahead about what could cause issues to your child on their first day of school and speak to the school about these in advance, to make sure the first day goes as smoothly as possible.

Examples include:

  • Do they have specific dietary requirements?
  • Will they need more time to get to their classroom, if they’re navigating a new school?
  • Will it be helpful to have a buddy in the classroom to support them for the first few days?

Use social stories to tell your child what a typical school day looks like and agree with school a nominated teacher they can go to, should they need help.


3. Expectations

After a long holiday, when children have been relaxed and out of a school routine, it’s important to remind your child about the detailed expectations of school. This is especially important when transitioning to high school, when rules can change and there are more requirements in terms of behaviour, uniform, and specific stationery.

Go through the do’s and don’ts of the school’s behaviour policy in a way that it doesn’t make the child nervous to go to school.

Make sure they have the right uniform and stationery. Include them in the shopping for these and try their uniform on several times before the school day to get them used to wearing it.

To summarise, make time to do everything you can to reduce any anxiety your child may have about returning to school. Ask your child questions around any concerns they have, so you can try and answer them or contact school before their start date.

Also, as a parent or carer, don’t forget to prepare yourself too! A calm and collected parent is better able to help their child make a successful transition back to school!


Does your child need different interventions?

If your child is unhappy at school, or their behaviour at school is negative, it might be that no one has ever got to the root of the actual problem. It may be that any suggested interventions you have in place are not be working.

Having a profile completed by Dr Guest at Aspiedent CIC could make a massive difference to your child’s life at school because you will have interventions that are tailored to the actual underlying issues.

If you would like more information about an Individual Autism Profile, or would like one for your child, please contact Aspiedent at