3 Back-to-School Tools Set Autistic Kids Up For Success

It’s that time again here in the US. Families are spending lots of money on school supplies (for real); kids are either grumpy or excited about starting school; and transition and change in schedules are once again front and center of our lives.

Ending school and starting school used to be the hardest times of the year for us. Wow.

Michael struggled so much with the change in schedule on both sides of the school year. I’d absolutely vote for year-round school but I suspect that’s a long way away here in the States.

As we’ve gone through more and more schools (more than 9 in fact), I’ve learned some solid strategies that are critical for helping Michael start a year out right–and keeping it that way.

Here are my three top tips in priority order for you.

1. Be Clear With Daily Expectations

One thing that I know works really, really well for my son (and many others on the spectrum) is to be front-loaded. That means that they know what’s expected.

They know and understand what date on the calendar is the start of school and what each day will typically look like schedule-wise. We can always share that schedules will change sometimes, but this is what we’re expecting.

This year’s schedule is shown below for you so you can see what it looks like. This will hang in our kitchen for daily reference.

Let the 2019/2020 School Year Begin!
Here’s what a typical school day will look like:

6:12 Mom’s alarm
6:20 Michael gets up
6:30 Mason gets up
To do: Get dressed
Brush teeth
Comb hair
Drink water
Gets healthy start-the-day food
7:05 Out the door
Michael to school first
Mason to school next
Mom to work last
2:40 Michael home with Irene
-Get a snack with protein in it
-Organize homework for the evening
-Relax with a 60-minute segment
4:30 Mason picked up and home by 5
5 – 8:30 Relax/computer time
House chores
8:30 Pack lunches
Backpacks organized and ready for tomorrow
9 Up to Bed!

It has some wiggle room, but that’s pretty much been our schedule for the past two years and it works for us.

You can make your own with many online templates, but I usually just use Word or Pages.

2. Develop a Kind, Strong Relationship With Their Teacher(s)

On the first day of school, or if you attend an open house, I like to bring a gift for the teachers at the beginning of the year.

For the first day gift, I typically bring a nice colorful pen set, Expo whiteboard markers, hand sanitizer, tissues, post-it notes, and anything else I think they’ll really enjoy (and will probably have to pay for on their own or ask parents for later).

I always make sure I have a meeting with them (can be a phone call) to let them know what Michael’s like, what to expect, what works, what doesn’t work, and that I’m here for any and all questions, concerns, suggestions, and anything else.

Here’s a good example (if I do say so myself!) of an email that you can work from so you can begin to maintain a positive partnership with your child’s teacher.

This has never gone badly from what I remember because teachers want to have a good school year. Some just don’t know how after that first day.

We’ve had years go waaaaayyyyy downhill, but the beginning meeting usually works out well.

About two weeks in IF you haven’t already had a conference or issue to work with (Ugh), I recommend that you check in with the teacher to see if they have any questions or stories they’d like to share.

From that point, I just work to keep in touch throughout the year. Kind and intentional maintenance is key to a healthy relationship with the teacher as much as is possible.

If they like sweets, I try to make cookies or something fun every few weeks. If they’re super healthy (we’ve had this), I usually bring in SmartWater and fresh fruit every once in a while.

I always give a nice gift at the holidays and at the end of the year if they’re really helping my children thrive. That’s personal preference as well because I don’t think teachers are paid enough. I try to help in that way.

And you know your children well, so just keep your feelers out for how they’re doing after school has started. If they’re doing good, send cookies; if your child seems to be struggling, send cookies and an email to see what might be happening.

And lastly for kids who are old enough . . .

3. Get A Great Planner For Your Child (and Help Them Use It)

Both of my kids used this awesome planner last year, and I’ve just ordered their next ones for this year.

This planner was created specifically for kids who struggle with ADHD so we tried it. And we love it! It’s actually great for anyone who wants a clear and easy way to organize their time.

I hope we get better at using theses planners this year because here’s the deal . . . when they use the planner, they don’t miss assignments or meetings and they are actually pretty cool, calm, and collected about school.

When they don’t use the planner, they tend to miss meetings and/or assignments while not having as much focus on their homework. I feel like they’re a bit more irritable actually. That’s my opinion, not theirs, but you can imagine that they’re just a bit unfocused and unsure when they don’t have a clear plan.

So take a look at Order Out of Chaos and check out their products. While on their site, you can spin the wheel for a prize. . . I got 10% off so that was awesome cuz I was going to buy their planners anyway. 🙂

Note: With this planner, they need to actually use it in order to be successful (as with most tools and classes(which I know because I’ve ordered classes and didn’t use them and then didn’t learn the thing that the class was supposed to teach me becauseI didn’t do the class, I only paid for the class) so the best thing you can do is set up a positive relationship with your child and their planner.

Bribery might be your best bet here, but maybe you guys can review it once a week on a scheduled weekend day just to have them review it to get ahead of any big assignments and keep on track. Getting gobsmacked with a an assignment that they forgot can send them spiraling.

Once they can see and feel their success in school, which will hopefully include feeling calmer, they’ll eventually (hopefully) use it on their own.

And that’s what we do. Every. Single. Year.

You’ll do great and so will your children,


Busy mornings are usually when we focus solely on our kids, but this is the one thing I make for myself every sing morning. Don’t forget to grab a quick, hot, and healthy chai on your way out the door. You’re worth it!

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