3 Special Needs Transition Techniques for a New School Year

by Aug 9, 2017School/Education, Special Needs Parenting2 comments

A parent can never have too many special needs transition techniques at the beginning of a new school year. Today, guest blogger and child psychologist Liz Matheis outlines 3 special needs transition techniques that can make the start of the upcoming school easier for the whole family.

3 Special Needs Transition Techniques
for a New School Year

Transitions are tough. As a parent of a child with special needs, I am sure you are beginning to anticipate September coolness and the first day of school with a mix of anxiety and a little bit of excitement! How are you going to prepare your child for a new grade, a new school year, a new change, and a new routine? Read on for 3 special needs transition techniques to help you ease into the 2017-2018 school year.

Reel it In

If your house is anything like mine, your child’s bedtime may have become later and later as the summer went on. In August, begin to set your child’s bedtime 15 minute earlier every 2-3 days until you reach the desired bedtime again. Also set the alarm clock 15 minutes earlier each morning until you reach your child’s school wake up time. The transition will be slow and not very noticeable to your child making the change in bedtime less drastic and monumental.

So what else can you do to accomplish this goal? Begin to close the house a bit earlier each night. Dim the lights, close the blinds, slow down the pace of the house and begin to bring the day to an end. Make it a family affair by heading upstairs and putting on your pajamas and turn down your bed.

A Visit Before the First Day

Instead of waiting for the first day of school, take a walk with your child to the playground a few weeks before school starts. Find the door that your child will stand by to line up before the bell rings. Play on the playground and walk around the building so it loses its novelty. Call the building principal and ask for a walk through the building without staff and other students. This will take away the element of the unknown and make the school premises familiar, even the parts of the building that your child may not walk through.

Once your child has an assigned teacher, ask the principal if your child can visit the new classroom and teacher prior to the first day of school. They can meet without the pressure of other students, ringing bells, and the need to keep the schedule moving forward. By the time your child starts on the first day, the building, your child’s teacher, and the routine of where to go is nothing new and all good!

There’s a Visual For That

If you don’t have a visual schedule for week days and weekends, create one for the rest of the summer. If your child goes to camp, include that on the schedule. You don’t necessarily have to include times, but rather include the sequence.

Then, have your child help you create a visual schedule for the school year. Include tasks like wake up, brush teeth, get dressed, and eat breakfast. You, or better yet your child, can create it in whatever visual format you like by hand or on the computer. The more your child is able to anticipate the day’s events, the less the days feel unpredictable, but rather consistent and within her control.

As the new school year begins, these special needs transition techniques can help make it a smooth one. I’m a big summer person so, until then, I plan on enjoying the sunshine, bare feet, bathing suits and fireflies!

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By Liz Matheis

Dr. Liz Matheis is a clinical psychologist and school psychologist in Parsippany, NJ. She offers support, assessments, and advocacy for children who are managing Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADHD, learning disabilities, and behavioral difficulties, as well as their families. She is also a contributor to several popular magazines. Visit www.psychedconsult.com for more information.


  1. Jolene

    Glad to hear that Maree. Visual schedules are so easy, too. It’s nice when easy and effective meet!

  2. Maree Dee

    Love the idea of a visual schedule. It works well around here.

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Meet Jolene

Jolene Philo is a published author, speaker, wife, and mother of a son with special needs.



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