Preparing for BACK TO SCHOOL!

schools are starting in the following 1-2 weeks. Many children, especially
children who are seen for Occupational Therapy, have difficulties with changes
in routine, transitions, and sleep disturbances. Here are some strategies to
start implementing NOW to reduce the risk of tantrums and improve the
transition into school (especially for little ones who have never attended
school before).


Begin using the school-year bed time and routine 2 weeks prior to school
starting. According to the National Sleep Foundation, children under age 5 need
11-13 hours of sleep each night (not
including naps)
while children ages 6-12 require 10-11 hours of sleep.  

  • Reduce
    electronics (TV, iPad, video games) 2 hours prior to bedtime
  • Removed all
    electronics from the bedroom
  • Try using
    “black out” curtains since the sun is still up longer hours
  • Eliminate
    caffeine, food dyes and sugar 2 hours prior to bedtime
  • Be consistent
    and firm with bedtime routines
  • Ask your
    therapist for more sensory-based bedtime strategies for calming/regulation


Also begin the morning routine including wake up time, dressing, packing the
lunch or backpack and eating breakfast. This will allow for the parent to
recognize how much time is actually required to decrease rushing and additional

  • For children who
    cannot read, use a picture schedule of their routine. Be very clear with
    the order of pictures. For example, your child may need a routine for the
    sequence of dressing to keep posted on his closet (i.e: undies, pants,
    shirt, socks, shoes) and another routine for hygiene posted on the
    bathroom mirror (i.e.: brush teeth, wash face, comb hair, etc.). For more
    information on using picture schedules:
  • Older children
    (readers) can use a written schedule or checklist which is more complex.
    Older children can also start practicing using an alarm clock and time
    management to estimate how much time they need for each activity.
  • Do not allow TV,
    video games, or play time until after all of the necessary
    activities have been completed. 
    Many children get “stuck” in play immediately after
    waking up and then melt down when asked to get ready for school and leave
    the television/toys.


Many children benefit from the use of social stories to improve transitions and
behaviors while reducing anxiety from the unknown. Social stories should be very
specific with correct names, pictures/drawing, etc. They should be simple and
easy to follow.

  • Parent may write
    the story while answering child’s questions and worries
  • Child may draw
    the pictures or embellish on the main themes
  • Focus on the
    positive behaviors you are seeking.
  • Be clear and
  • For example, a
    child with difficulties separating from his parent: “Jack will go to
    school next Monday. His teacher is Miss Amanda. Mommy will drop him off at
    the door and give him a hug. Jack will have his backpack and will walk
    into his classroom all by himself! It’s okay to feel “worried” but
    he will feel “happy” to see his friend Marcus. Jack will make
    good choices and use his listening ears. He will make new friends. Jack
    will see Mommy at 3:00 when school is over for the day.”
  • For more
    examples of social stories:
  • (click teacher
    resources then Behavioral stories)


Amanda Masters, MS, OTR/L 

Clinic Therapist – TherapyWorks