School has Started… Now What?


Submitted by: Melanie Shank, BCBA

One of our latest blogs addressed steps you can take to plan ahead and prepare for the start of the school year. At this point, most kids have been back to school for a week or more and as a parent, you may be seeking some more advice: How do I get my kids ready and out the door on time? Why is my child struggling in school already? How am I supposed to get my child to do homework after school? Here are some ideas on how to tackle these struggles:

Establishing and practicing a morning routine was discussed in our Planning Ahead blog, but it’s something that’s so important, it should be addressed again. Having a set schedule in the morning of items that need to be completed before leaving for school will help alleviate some chaos in the morning. If your child is able to, sit down with them and create the schedule together. You don’t have to include times on this schedule, we are just looking for a list of items in order that need to be completed all the way up to leaving the house. Don’t forget to write it down – this will help as a visual for both of you each morning.

Some additional routine/schedule tips include: Consider laying out clothes the night before so your child knows what they are going to wear in the morning. Bag your child’s bag the night and put it by the door so your child knows where to pick it up before leaving. If available, have a reinforce available that your child can access if they get done with their schedule and have time before the bus arrives or on their way to school. This will reinforce them completing the schedule and will increase the likelihood of them completing it in the future.

Getting back into the routine of school is difficult for a lot of children, especially if this is your child’s first time in school. If you haven’t done so already, try to schedule a few minutes with your child’s teacher. Use this time to address what rules your teacher may have for the class, the schedule for the class, expectations for homework, etc. If your child’s teacher is unable to make time, ask for his/her address and send a polite email requesting this information to assist with the transition into school. Instead of your child only hearing these rules/expectations at school, sit down and go over them. This will allow the opportunity for him/her to practice anything at home and ask any questions. If your child has any questions, address these with the teacher.

Returning back to school means the return of homework along with setting the contingency that homework should be completed before access to fun and games. The key to getting your child to comply with homework is to increase motivation for them to do so. Let’s be honest, your child has been at school all day and now has to come home and complete more work. If you allow your child time to play and access reinforcers prior to starting their homework, it is less likely that they are going leave the fun and sit down at the table to work. Instead, set up the rule that first homework needs to be completed before they can play. Identify what they want to play when they are done. If your child has multiple worksheets/subjects to complete for homework, consider breaking up the work into separate work sessions. Allow a 5 minute break to get up from the table or have some snack.

Keep in mind that change can be hard for many people, including parents! Stay positive and make sure to reinforce your child for staying on schedule, getting good reports from school, and completing homework.