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Back to School Communication Tips
For many kids, starting back at school is an exciting time. It means seeing old friends and making new ones. But for kids with social communication challenges, “back to school” has a different meaning. Kids who struggle in social situations find many aspects of the beginning of school stressful and challenging. Here are some tips to make the start of the school year a positive one, for any child!
1. First Day Questions
“How was your summer?”
“What did you do this summer?”
“Did you go anywhere fun?”
“What was your favourite part of summer?”
These are questions that fill a school on the first day. Some children don’t know how much information to share when asked these questions. They may give too much or too little. Practice asking and answering these questions with your child. Teach them to “think with their eyes” to see if their friend is interested in what is being said. Look for signs like: good eye contact, smiling, and head nodding that show your partner is interested in what you’re saying. Alternatively, if your friend is: looking away or fidgeting, you may be sharing too much. Role-play these conversations with your child and have them interpret your nonverbal cues. Coach them, if needed.
2. Initiating Conversations
Walking up to a friend or new classmate can be overwhelming if you don’t know what to say or ask. Some kids have a hard time initiating conversations and thinking of what they want to say. Teach your child to use conversation starters and wh- question words, like:
“WHAT did you do this summer?”
“WHERE did you go?”
“WHO did you see?”
“WHEN were you at camp?”
“WHY did you like summer break?”
“HOW do you feel being back at school?”
3. Taking Turns
When having a conversation, some kids take all the turns, while others barely respond. Kids enjoying talking to friends that are engaged and engaging. Introduce the “2 Question Rule” to make sure your child is able to maintain conversations with new friends. Role-play a conversation and keep track of the questions each of you ask. Make sure the questions go back and forth. A sample conversation could be:
“Hey Mark! How was your summer?” (1 question)
“My summer was great! I went to camp. How was your summer?” (2 questions)
“Mine was good too. I visited family in Florida. What camp did you go to?” (1 question)
“I went to ABC Camp. What did you do in Florida?” (2 questions)
In this interaction, the questions are balanced, and each child will feel like an active part of the conversation.
Starting a new year at school doesn’t need to be hard. By role-playing and discussing these tips ahead of time, your child will feel more prepared for those first few days of school. Good luck with the school year!