I thought around now I would be putting up a post of “what’s in our school bags” and sharing all the fidget toys and sensory bits and bobs we pack for school. Instead, we are facing an entirely different version of back to school, where school bags are not even allowed.
This post gives a bit of insight into the challenges going back to school will bring this year and our top tips to make the return to school successful.
September always brings challenges in adapting from the summer holidays back to school time routines. This year is a new challenge, having been out of full school for so long the adjustment will be huge.
Faye went back to school for two days a week for the final three weeks of term and George did a few days a week for the last half term. Henry was in year six so went back full time from June, he is the only one who had any resemblance of normal school. Return to formal lessons and full school days will be a huge shock to the system.
On top of returning to full days at school everything is different. Some of the changes we are faced with are:
No pencil cases or toys can be taken to school – This means Faye cannot take the usual spare pencil case full of fidgets to help her.
Different start and finish times for all three children – Henry is starting secondary school, having not been able to visit or meet any of his classmates. Henry had hoped to walk with George but with different start times and entrances this won’t be possible.
New classmates – Faye’s year group is being mixed up so the classmates she has been with since age 4 will be different and she will have to navigate new friendship groups.
New routes to school – For us the morning is the most stressful part of the day and the time when meltdowns are most likely to occur. With the new school streets and low traffic neighbourhoods coming in our journey to school will be very different. It will take a lot longer to get to school, we will not be able to park in the same place, adding to the anxiety of being late for school and the risk of one of them entering flight mode near roads is extremely dangerous.
Face Masks and Hand Gels – George and Henry’s school have changed their mind about face masks and they will now be needed when moving around the school. Hand gel has to be carried at all times and used every lesson change.
George initially liked the idea of face masks because he likes to be able to hide away and he thought they would mask some of his tics. In reality, along with sensory issues, wearing a face mask with Tourette’s presents a different problem. George’s face and mouth tics cause the mask to move and twist and become very uncomfortable and it needs to be constantly put back in place.
George qualifies for exemption from face masks, we got him a sunflower lanyard and printed an exemption card. This presents another dilemma for George as not wearing a face mask will then make him stand out. He hates to feel different and becomes anxious that people are staring at him.
We bought some soft cotton masks in the specified colour, George will attempt to wear them when he can.
Our Back To School Top Tips:
Prepare your child in advance to the changes coming up. Use social stories and visual timetables to help them process the new routines. We use the Happy Tokens Visual Timetable at home and [A/L Tom Tags [A/L] for out and about. Both are reusable and it is easy to take the tokens out and put in which ever order you need.
Ask school to email photos of the new classroom and provide details of any changes to school rules and routines. You can then use these to create your own personal social stories.
Re-familiarise your child with the journey to school, travel a few times along the same route. Even older children may need you to go over the route with them after such a long break.
If there is a new route, a different method of travel or perhaps new rules, such as face masks on transport; practice the new journey well before they have to actually travel to school.
Perhaps your child is ready to try to travel to school by themselves? Travel with them the first few times maybe staying at a distance to build their confidence.
Wash any new items so they are softened and smell familiar.
Get your child to wear the new uniform in the house to get used to it. Even existing uniform can feel strange and restrictive after a long time of wearing their own clothes.
Practice anything tricky like buttons or ties so they are confident getting ready on the first day back.
If your child is taking a packed lunch get them involved with choosing and buying the packed lunch food.
Make sure they can open their lunchbox and any containers easily. I know my own children won’t always ask for help with this and not eat anything they can’t open.
If your child has school dinners the school often post the new menu online in advance. Print off a copy and put somewhere you can both see it and familiarise your child with the menu.
If you are allowed to take items in to school now is a great time to chose a new fidget toy or sensory aid. Faye is choosing some new Chewigem fidgets today and this feels like a big back to school treat. There is a deal at the moment until midnight on Tuesday 1st September for buy one Chewigem get another one the same free. You don’t need to enter a code just purchase the Chewigems you want and the free ones will be sent automatically. [A/L Chewigem Online Shop A/L]
Let us know if you have any SEND friendly back to school tips we haven’t thought of.
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