Sensory Scout Blog

Back to School Sensory Challenges: A Checklist

Posted by Vanessa Caalim on

Back to School Sensory Challenges: A Checklist
Going back to school can be hard for any kid, or any adult for that matter. But children with sensory challenges can face unique challenges as they transition back to in-person learning. Whatever the new school year holds, the following tips and techniques can help you and your child make the most of it.

Back to School Sensory Challenge Checklist

Re-Establish Bedtime and Wake-Up Time

It’s no secret the rules bend a little in the Summer. It’s a big reason kids remember Summer fondly for the rest of their lives! One area that usually gets a little fuzzy is the sleep schedule. Over the Summer, your child might have stayed up later and slept later than usual. Maybe you did too!

Rather than start cold with a new bedtime and wake-up call, let your child get the hang of the new schedule by implementing it two weeks before school starts. The first day can be challenging enough, so establishing healthy sleep habits in advance gives you both a big advantage.  


Write Down Your Routine

Google Calendar is great for adults, but kids like to see the writing on the wall. Whether you use a paper hanging calendar, a chalkboard, or a whiteboard, your child can benefit greatly from seeing milestones in advance. You might mark the following down for the coming school year:

  • Trips to Grandma’s
  • School Holidays
  • National Holidays
  • Special Occasions
  • Vacations

Having a clear idea of what’s around the corner helps children mentally prepare and feel comfortable and secure. You can also encourage your child to cross off each calendar day to instill a sense of completion and achievement. 


Get in the Habit of Calming Exercises

Many things disturb the calm at the start of a new school year: new schedules, new activities, new peers, new authority figures. To help keep the balance, try some exercises that will help your child “keep calm and carry on.” As an added benefit, they’ll have the same effect on you!
Here are a few exercise ideas:

These types of calming exercises help release pent-up energy and frustration. They also promote healthy sleep cycles, self-regulation, balance, and child-parent bonding. 

Talk to Your Child’s Teacher

Your child likely has a “sensory safe place” at home. It can be helpful to have a similar space at school. Your child understands that this is not a “time out” or punishment, but a secure place to retreat from sensory overload and regain their bearings.

Discuss the possibility of a “sensory safe place” with your child’s teacher, and find out what options your child might have within the classroom. Let them know about your child’s unique challenges and your specific concerns. After all,  no one is more qualified to advocate for your child than you.


Encourage Communication

You and your child work on communication every day. And there’s no better time than back-to-school to keep up the excellent work! Encourage your child to communicate and express their feelings, needs, wants, and emotions regularly and consistently. 

Consider creating a “feelings thermometer chart” where kids choose from happy, sad, scared, worried, calm, or excited emotions.

You can find some fantastic printable Emotion Charts here.


Back to School Sensory Challenges: Conclusion

Back-to-school can feel overwhelming for kids and parents alike. Even positive stress and excitement can manifest in unexpected ways and contribute to meltdowns and feelings of discomfort. But the tips and ideas on this checklist can help you develop a strategy for approaching back-to-school like an “old pro.”

Having a clear plan for supporting your sensory child is the first step to school year success. While transitions always pose unique challenges, there are many resources to consider as your child returns to in-person learning. Your child’s teacher, your support network, and the parent community at Sensory Thrive are here to help. Remember—you are not alone. We are all in this together!