Starting school isn’t plain sailing for everyone. It can be a daunting journey for children who have a disability. To make the experience as stress-free as possible, developing social skills before the start of the school year is essential and can make the change in routine easier to deal with for both children and parents.
Sometimes, changes in routine like starting a new school can be difficult for your child. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t positive changes. Turning perceived negatives into positives can help your child to feel enthused about school instead of anxious.
An effective plan, if possible, is to organise a visit to the school prior to the first day. Visiting the classroom and meeting the teachers could make the new environment less frightening for anxious new students. Some schools even hold induction days in advance, giving children the chance to meet each other, feel comfortable in the new environment, and ease into school life. Another helpful tip is to introduce the new routine a month or two before the start of school. By the time term comes around, the routine will be set in stone and comfortable for your child. You can start this process by:
Being prepared for school means being organised. Make sure their school bag is packed and ready. Rather than using a bag with minimal or no pockets, use one with plenty so that your child can easily find their belongings. It is small details like this that will make the difference in helping your child breeze through their new school chapter.
Comfort is essential. If your child feels uncomfortable, they may feel anxious. Making sure your child is comfortable in their clothing - no itchy labels or rough materials - will help them to feel relaxed rather than irritated. Take a look at our clothing range of school uniforms for children with special needs specifically designed to help children with special needs always feel their best.
Most schools offer a variety of after school clubs for children to attend. It is likely that you will find something your child is interested in. Attending a social club, with people who share the same interests, will help to make sure your child feels like they fit in. Sport, art, and music are usually popular choices. As time passes, your child is likely to start to enjoy the new routine and find that school is a safe place for them rather than unknown and scary. Remember to put the time aside to catch up with them after each school day and to help them with any challenges.
We know that the point of school is to teach children the fundamental skills they need to get through life. This doesn’t just stop at maths and English. There is a hidden agenda when it comes to schooling that teaches children about interpersonal skills and socialisation.You may have already helped your children to develop their social skills, but if not, it is vital you do so that they don’t feel too out of their depth when they need to use them in the school setting.
Eye contact can be a challenge for some children, but it isn’t always impossible. Sometimes, a lack of eye contact isn’t necessarily a result of aversion, but rather a lack of understanding social cues. Be patient, and practice using appropriate eye contact. If your child is old enough to understand, sit down with your child and go through with them why eye contact is important.
We have all experienced low self-esteem throughout our lives. Children are no exception, in fact, they are often more susceptible to feeling this way due to peer pressures and puberty. Try your best to understand how your child might be feeling. If you do, you will have a much better understanding of their behaviour and the best ways to better it. Sit down with them and talk about things that are bothering them. Knowing that they are being listened to is essential. The lower your child’s esteem, the less likely they are to take part in socialising.
How does your child react to conflict? Do they deal with it constructively? Many children dislike being put on the spot. But, you need to help your child understand the appropriate responses to adverse situations because if they don’t, it could lead to potentially harmful actions in school. It’s best to be gentle in this situation. If your child is upset they might lash out. To avoid this, talk with them and help them to understand their feelings, how to deal with them, and who they can talk to if they feel upset.
A big part of school is working as a team. You need to know when to share and listen to others which can be difficult for some children with special needs. If you feel that your child struggles with one or all of these things, work on it. One of the best ways to do this is through play. Choose games that require a lot of teamwork so your child starts to get the hang of it.
Starting school, or moving to a new one, can be a daunting experience for any child to begin with. For children with special needs, it can be even worse. We are here to make their transition as seamless as possible by providing practical, sensory-friendly clothing that allows your child to be as comfortable as possible. Check out the range of adaptive clothing or, for more advice and tips, follow our latest blogs here.
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Swimming is a fantastic inclusive activity to do with children with special needs. It’s a great sensory experience that is good fun and has positive benefits for both physical and mental health. It is also an activity that can be done all year round and doesn’t have to be weather dependent (depending on where you choose to swim!).