5 Tips to Help with the Back to School Transition

Sharon Galitzer (Physical Therapist) by Sharon Galitzer (Physical Therapist) Additional Needs

Sharon Galitzer (Physical Therapist)

Sharon Galitzer (Physical Therapist)

I'm a pediatric physical therapist and also the sibling of an adult with special needs.

5 Tips to Help with the Back to School Transition

Back to school...back to life...Have you found yourself wondering "How can I help my child transition?"

Some children may feel overwhelmed, especially after being at home for the past year and a half in a familiar setting with familiar people. There will be new friends, new routines, new expectations, and all in a new foreign location.

Whether your child is mobile or non-ambulatory, verbal or non-verbal, a social story that provides them with all the information they need to feel safe will help. This story should be meaningful to each child so it may be verbal, presented as a book, or simply contain pictures.

Physically go to their new setting and show them around. Narrate as you walk through the space letting the child know where they’ll enter the building, the route to their classroom, and finish up with “This is where I’ll meet you at the end of the day” or “This is where you’ll get on the bus at the end of the day.” Relevant information inside the classroom should point out the great toys, the view outside the window (if applicable), their cubby, and the location of the bathroom relative to their class. They’ll probably have an opportunity to face time with their teachers before the school year begins.

All children of all abilities can benefit from the following:

  • Create a social story for the event.
  • Break the day down into what will happen - First and Then
  • Stay positive.
  • Give your child choices when preparing for this new space (ie. “Which backpack do you like?”).

Lastly, review your child’s IFSP or IEP and set your child up for success. Each teacher will become familiar with the children in the class and their accommodations, it never hurts to reach out to the teacher because it is a team effort.

There are children who are nonverbal, have a difficult time with transitions, or have a difficult time with interpreting and showing emotions. That doesn’t mean that they’re not experiencing these feelings inside, it just means they can’t express them, or even worse, they may express them in undesirable ways such as certain behaviors, self-stiming or even worse, crying.

Be proactive and prepare them in the most meaningful way, so that they understand what is to come. I’ve witnessed children come down from a meltdown to happy smiles within minutes. Therapists and teachers have been through this many times, don’t worry, WE GOT THIS!!!

Dr. Sharon Galitzer PT, DScPT, MS, CIMI Pediatric Physiotherapist


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