Back to School - Helping Your Child Get Ready

school supplies in stainless steel buckets on a desk
Autism Ontario

Back to school is quickly approaching, and the transition back to routines and learning can be a challenge for many families and autistic learners, making the process of getting ready even more important.

To help you and your family prepare, we have compiled a list of resources to set you up for a successful school year. 





Transition Tips

These tips were created by Autism Ontario Subject Matter Experts Bethany Brewin (Occupational Therapist) and Danielle Nolan (Social Worker).

  • Create a morning schedule: A checklist, visual schedule, or photographs that show exactly what needs to be done to be ready for school in the morning.
  • Dressing skills: Help your child select a few favourite outfits that are comfortable and easy to put on. Be mindful of sensory sensitivities and have multiple of preferred clothing.
  • Feeding/mealtimes: Work with your child to select some favourite lunch or snack items including preferred foods and challenge foods. Serve lunch/snack in lunchbox and containers they'll be using at school.
  • Organization/time management: For younger children, create a daily visual schedule for before and after school. For older children, determine what's best for tracking homework and communicating with parents or teachers.
  • Fine motor skills: Build hand strength and skills through play. Make "cookies" using play dough, sculpt with clay, make bracelets, use tongs to sort pom-poms, colour, and connect the dots.
  • Gross motor skills: Go to parks and playgrounds, play 'Follow the Leader' and 'Simon Says', and do scavenger hunts.
  • Social skills: is there a way to connect with other families before school starts? Look into clubs or extra-curricular activities.
  • Emotional regulation: Talk about emotions and normalize your child's worries. Books, pictures, and journals can help.
  • Calming strategies: Breathing techniques, affirmations, meditation, and mindfulness strategies.
  • Sleep and bedtime routines: Limit electronics before bed and encourage calming activities. Keep bedtime/wake-up times consistent.
  • Create a personal portfolio: A tool to help your child introduce themselves, especially for children with minimal verbal speech. It can include photographs, a list of favourite movies, art, etc.
  • Plan a school preview: Learn about school before the first day through tours, meeting teachers, viewing the website, and listening to experiences from other students and parents.


Be sure to watch our recent webinars on back-to-school preparation:

Mother and son hugging
Photo by Ivan Samkov, Pexels

School Advocacy

Every child has the right to an appropriate education where they can prosper. Check out these tips to effectively voice your concerns and successfully advocate for your child:

  • Determine indicators of success and long-term goals.
  • Focus on issues and identify preferred solutions. Be ready to negotiate!
  • Don't place blame, but be persistent and listen carefully.
  • Keep records of everything in writing.
  • Develop a communication plan with school.
  • Create a file for your child including assessments, speech and OT reports, Individual Education Plans (IEPs), past report cards, and medical consultations.

Check out our school advocacy toolkit, Negotiating the Maze Strategies for Effective Advocacy in Schools, which provides information to parents regarding ways to advocate for their child's needs in school, and offers specific tips and strategies.

Two female teenagers using a laptop
Photo by Karolina Grabowska, Pexels

Teens & High School

From Surviving to Thriving in High School

This toolkit from AIDE Canada offers ideas and tips that may be useful for youth in high school. It addresses topics such as: making the most of high school, independence and organization, friendships, as well as other issues for teens such as smoking, vaping, drugs, alcohol, and making good decisions.

Teen Mental Health

Anxiety is the most common type of mental health concern in autistic teens. As parents and caregivers, your role is to provide support, encouragement, and your presence. This resource provides some strategies that can help.

Child writing in a graphing notebook at a desk

Additional Resources

Learn more about school supports, including information on the Identification, Placement and Review Committee (IPRC), Individual Education Plans (IEPs), and read Autism Ontario's Position Statements on Education. We also have some fantastic learning resources related to autism, advocacy, and research.