Preschool is not something I ever imagined for our son. He has been attached to me since the day he was born. When we received his autism diagnosis, I wondered if I would have to home school him because of his attachment issues. We have had countless hours of therapies, all at home. When he turned three, he no longer qualified for at First Steps though. So, we made the choice to send him to preschool.
The first day of school is always a tough one, mainly for the parents. For those of us who are stay-at-home parents, it can be much harder. The idea of sending your little one to school without you can be overwhelming. Even more so for those whose children are autistic, or have another similar diagnosis.
I can fully admit that I have been back and forth on how I feel. This isn’t our first time sending a child off to their first day of school (it’s our 4th!). That being said, it does not get any easier. With our oldest, I cried the second week of kindergarten. She told me “it’s ok, you don’t have to walk me to class today, I got it.” I smiled and sent her on her way. Then, I pulled over in the parking lot and cried like a little baby, lol! Today, I did not cry (but who knows about tomorrow!).
One question I have been asked is how to prepare to send your autistic child to preschool. The answer isn’t much different then sending any child off to preschool, but does take a little more preparation. Today we will go over a few tips to have you fully prepared to send your autistic child to preschool.
Advice for Sending your autistic child to Preschool
The first piece of advice I can tell you is to be prepared. This means having everything set up for you child (and you) to have a successful day. Your child’s teacher will give you a list of supplies you will have to bring. They will often give a few “optional” items. If all possible, get these for your teacher. Believe me, the cost of those items is worth your child and teacher being fully prepared to have a successful day.
After the list your teacher gives you, there will be several other things you will want to have ready.
Chances are, your child’s teacher will ask you to label certain items. For autistic children, this is overly important. Even with our nine-year old who has autism, we label EVERY thing that is hers. This even includes pencils. Labeling their items helps teachers quickly find their stuff and prevents meltdowns from trying to find their items. I always invest in high quality, printed labels so that I know they will stay on there.
Noise Canceling Headphones:
Many children with autism have extra sensitivities, especially to sound. It is not always the volume, but can be multiple people talking at once or just the distraction of them. We have a pair that we leave at school, at home, and in the diaper bag. The best one’s we have found so far are Walker’s headphones. They are great quality, and fit small heads perfectly.
If your child is a little weary of trying them, then I would highly recommend using one designed to be fun. We used the hush buddies for my daughter and they worked great. There all sorts on amazon that work great too like cute designs, fox headphones, airplane designs, and robot designs.
Picture of the Family:
Having a picture of the family is a great way for your child to feel comfortable away from home. I like to send our children with one printed on cardstock so that it is a little stronger. Make sure to have multiples of the same picture printed ahead of time. Once one starts to show too much sign of wear, switch it out for a new one.
About Me Page:
Sending your autistic child to preschool can be overwhelming simply because they have a list of things they do daily. Many children have a sensory diet, specific routines, and certain things they avoid doing. Letting your teacher know ahead of time what your child likes and dislikes, family members names, and routines will help everyone have a successful day.
Now a days, every teacher has a school based email. Make sure to put this in your contacts and know it’s okay to use it. If you have questions, concerns, or even advice to give, email your child’s teacher. She will love to hear from you. Don’t worry that you are being a burden or over emailing. Teachers actually want to hear from parents. You are the one who knows your child best and can give the best advice for a successful day.
One of the great benefits of email is that teachers can respond when they are available. It makes it wear they can answer questions without class time being interrupted. They will be happy to answer questions before or after class. but it is so much easier to respond without having the kiddos around.
Plan Your Day:
The hardest part of sending your autistic child to preschool is going to be yourself. Your child will do amazing. They will be playing with toys and friends non stop. You on the other hand may feel completely lost. It may sound liberating to have time to yourself (and it will be), but at first you may not know what to do with yourself.
Make a plan of what you want to do, even if it is just taking a bath (alone, finally!!!) and reading a book. For me, I have completely planned this to be my blog writing time. I’ll make sure to throw a load of laundry in, wipe downs counter, and run the vacuum as well. That way, when little man gets home, I can spend my time focused on him. Well, until his siblings get home, anyways.
Sending your autistic child to preschool
Sending your autistic child to preschool will be a new adventure for both of you. In the long run, it will be a great thing. They will get interaction with other children, learn new skills, and get therapies while at school. They will have a ton of fun, and still have a large portion of the day at home with you.