Ways To Decrease Back-to-School Anxiety

By Sally Dean, M.S., BCBA, LBS

Many children experience anxiety when it is time to go back to school. For kids with an autism spectrum disorder this can be especially true. Families can make this transition easier by doing a few simple things to decrease the worries and fears associated with the return to school.

Parents and caregivers can reduce a child’s “back to school” anxiety by using the following techniques:

  • Mark on the family calendar when the first day of school will be so the child is aware of the upcoming change.
  • Begin to structure the day so that it is similar to the child’s school day. No staying up late or sleeping in.
  • Have the child engage in meaningful activities that relate to their favorite academic subjects instead of watching television or playing video games.
  • Plan a visit to the child’s school. This is a wonderful way for the child to see their classroom, meet their teachers, and even get an idea of what their schedule will look like when classes begin.
  • Talk about positive things associated with school such as learning innovative ideas, seeing peers, and creating new friendships.
  • Practice with children reciprocal conversation skills so they can feel confident talking to classmates they have not seen in several months.
  • Point out to children who worry about changes all the things that are still the same in their life, from the smallest to the biggest detail. This technique can be really helpful in reducing anxiety.
  • Plan a “back to school “celebration by having a special dinner or by making a favorite dessert. This is wonderful “pairing” approach to change a child’s attitude from fear and worry to one of positive expectations and excitement for the coming school year.

Using these strategies is likely to make the process of returning to school a much more positive experience that can be enjoyed by all. For more information, please contact us at Sdean@Deanbehavioral.com

Sally Dean, Dean Behavioral Consulting, LLC