The beginning of a new school year always brings about a myriad of emotions that can range from excitement and joy to nervousness and anxiety. For M and I, we have found that most of the nervousness and anxiety come from a lack of knowledge about the coming year.
Early on in M’s school career, we began working with the school to prepare her for the first day. Knowing that social stories worked well for her, I began using some that I found in the bookstore and online. I also took her to visit the school prior to the new school year starting. The problem was, none of the social stories I was using truly fit what was going to happen for her. We would go to the school and it wouldn’t match what we had been reading in the story; the main issue for M being that the pictures were different and her school looked nothing like we had read about. I talked to her school to see if they would be willing to allow me to come in with M to take photos of anything that could be relevant in her upcoming year; the entrance to the school, the classroom, her teacher, etc. I took those pictures and crafted a new social story around her first day. She loved it. It became real to her. For several years M would take the story with her on the first day- I think it made her feel better to have it. It seemed like it was a sort of bridge from summer, to theory to reality. We don’t really use the social stories much anymore, but we do still visit her school prior to her new school year starting. In a way, I miss doing that project with her every year but I am so proud of how far she’s come.
This Back-To-School social story is a little different then most of the stories we post; this one is customizable to your child. Please take the time to set up a meeting with your child’s school (the principal and secretary are there over the summer) to come in, take pictures and talk to them about the details that will be important for relieving some anxieties for your child and to increase their awareness about what’s happening on the first day. This will help them navigate with a much higher degree of success than if they go in “cold”. I strongly recommend you take your child with you and take pictures of them in front of or in their new classroom, in front of the school, with their teacher (if they’re there-they’re often not), on the playground, etc. Take as many as you can and then sit down with your child and make it a fun project to make their Back-To-School story all about them.
*You may remove any pages that do not apply to your child so as not to confuse them.
**If your child will be changing classes for different subjects, print as many of Page 6 to add to your story as applicable to your child. This should include specials as well as academic classes such as, art, music, PE, math, social studies, science, etc.
Below, you’ll see a snippet of the first three pages of this social story. Unlike most of our other social stories, this one is free. Please feel free to download and personalize it to your child’s needs! We hope this helps start your school year off right with your loved one on the spectrum.