Back to school is upon us once again, and this can be both an exciting and stressful time of year for the children we work with – and their parents! Whether your little ones are looking forward to learning new things or feeling anxious about fitting in, there are several things that you can do to help them feel more prepared for the school year to come. Let’s take a look at several simple areas of focus within speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy that you can practice with your child leading up to that first day of school.
Speech Therapy Back to School Prep
Role Playing – If your child is nervous about meeting new children, you can help them feel more at ease by playing a simple role-playing game. Pretend to be another child that they’re meeting for the first time and have a conversation with them. Help your child think of appropriate ice-breakers and things they can talk about comfortably with new friends.
Curiosity Prep – Children have a tendency to ask questions that can come across as rude and hurtful when they are confronted with something they aren’t familiar with – like another child’s speech impediment. Before school begins, it can sometimes be helpful to gently warn your child that they might get questioned about the way that they speak by other children. Then you can work with your child to find simple answers to the questions they might be asked in order to help their new friends understand them better. (This is an area where a speech therapist can offer a lot of helpful advice!)
Occupational Therapy Back to School Prep
School-Specific OT Challenges – Going back to school – or going to school for the first time – can mean being confronted with new occupational challenges. For example, your child probably doesn’t open a lunch box very often at home. Work with your OT to think of the various occupational skills your child might find useful to practice before school begins.
Waiting Games – A lot of school is sitting quietly and waiting for your turn. If your child has trouble sitting still or gets easily distracted, it might be helpful to practice some mental games that can keep your child focused or occupy their mind while they wait in line. For example, your child can quietly try to find objects that are every color of the rainbow.
Physical Therapy Back to School Prep
Classroom Tour – If possible, try to arrange a tour of your child’s classroom before school begins with their new teacher. That way you can identify any areas that might be difficult for your child to maneuver or unsafe for your child for whatever reason. Having some advance warning will allow both your child and their teacher time to adjust. This is also a useful thing to do if your child has physical impairments.
Explore Outdoors – After your classroom tour, why not explore your school’s outdoor areas? You can walk through the halls of the school and then make your way outside. Let your child practice on the school playground or on the stairs leading up to the school entrance over the summer so they are familiar with these areas prior to school starting. It can be fun for them to see what’s waiting for them both inside and out.