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Back to school – help with anxiety and organisation

school girl carrying rucksack with packing checklist attachedYou’ve got the uniform, the new shoes, pencil-case and stationery and they’re all neatly labelled with your child’s name – but being ready to start or go back to school isn’t just about having all the right kit.   

Starting school for the first time, going to a new school or moving to a new class, teacher or environment are some of the biggest transitions in a child’s life. It’s normal to feel anxious or worried at times of transition or change and the routine and environment of daily school life can present many challenges in itself for some children. It can often be difficult for children to understand and express these feelings and know how to cope with them effectively. If a child can share their worries and concerns with their parents and teachers it will be easier to help them develop good coping skills and strategies. 

My TomTag Feelings Notebook is an ideal tool for communication between child, parent and teacher. It helps a child to express, understand and communicate their feelings and anxieties. Parents and teachers can better understand the causes and triggers for a child’s anxiety or behaviour, by identifying patterns over a number of days or weeks. This written record can help them to work in partnership to give a consistent and coordinated level of support to the child. 

The TomTag Share how I feel tag and Manage my feelings kit are additional complementary products that can be used in conjunction with My TomTag Feelings Notebook to help a child further explore, express and understand their feelings and emotions.

The brand new lunch box you bought just a few weeks ago gets left on the kitchen table in the rush to get everyone to school on time – what now? Arriving at school without all the right kit for the day ahead is a common cause of anxiety and stress for many school children. Not being able to take part in activities, being in trouble with teachers, not being comfortable and having attention drawn to them are all unwelcome consequences of forgotten pe-kits, lunchpacks, jumpers and the like. TomTag’s I can do it – pack my bag for school kit is a simple checklist that attaches to a child’s school bag to remind them what they need to take to school and bring home again each day.

We’ve created some new amazing value bundles incorporating all these products to help you prepare and support you child as they head back to school or if they’re starting school for the first time. Click on the product links below to find out more about each product and details of our bundles. 

  • cover image sticker pack feelings & emotions

    Feelings & emotions

  • cover image download feelings tag

    Feelings tag-o-meter

  • back to school bundle option 1

    I can do it – back to school bundles

  • I can do it – manage my feelings

  • I can do it – pack my bag for school

  • cover image minikits share how I feel

    I can do it – share how I feel

  • cover image sticker pack my school kit

    My school kit

  • My TomTag Feelings Notebook

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School morning routines

Getting the whole family ready for school and out of the door on time and with all the right kit is never easy. There’s usually lots of shouting, nagging and panic involved!

Chaos or calm?

A less stressful and chaotic morning is possible with a little preparation. When children have the skills to get ready independently, they can start to take responsibility for themselves and their belongings without needing you to remind them every time. It might take a little practice and patience at first but it will be worth the effort in the long run.

Establishing a consistent morning routine (and the evening before) is also key to getting things to run more smoothly and helps everyone to understand what’s expected of them.

Visual checklists and schedules are an ideal tool to use when helping your child learn routines and skills for independence.

Use a consistent morning routine

Getting back into a routine after a long break or when starting school for the first time can be really difficult, especially for very young children or those on the autistic spectrum.

Create a visual reminder of all the tasks that need to be completed each morning and list them in the order in which you want them to be done.

It’s ok to use more detailed steps at first or attach a separate detailed list for each task to help make the process easier to understand.

Keep this list in a handy place in your child’s bedroom so it’s within reach when they get out of bed. Get them used to following the routine step by step each morning and work towards them checking things off independently each day.

Avoid the dressing battlefields

self care i can rememberKeep another checklist in the bedroom that will show your child what clothes they need to wear and what they should put on first. This avoids the pants over trousers scenario!

Setting out clothes the night before saves a lot of stress trying to find clean clothes in the morning. Start by laying out all the clothes for them so that everything’s ready to go the next day and then build up to them taking the responsibility for preparing this themselves.   

Tackle hygiene skills

self care follow instructionsTaking care of personal hygiene is a very important life skill for all our children to learn. We perform these tasks for ourselves everyday without needing to think about exactly what we’re doing.
For children just learning these skills, we need to break the task down into smaller steps. A picture list describing each step in the process is a great visual reminder that they can refer to each time they do the task which will help them to master getting it right.
Keeping a teethbrushing, toilet routine or washing checklist in the bathroom will help your child develop the independence to get ready in the morning by themselves and speed up the whole family’s routine.

Pack all the right kit

pack for school carrying bagGiving your child the responsibility for finding and packing everything they need for school might seem like a crazy idea but even the youngest or most disorganised child can soon get the hang of it, increasing their independence and reducing anxieties that occur over forgotten items.
Use a simple checklist attached to their schoolbag listing all the things they need to remember to take for each day of the week. Then they’ll also have it with them at school to remind them what to bring home at the end of the day too.
Getting into the habit of packing the night before is a great way to avoid that last minute panic searching for homework or games kit in the morning when you really should be leaving the house!

Make your own schedules and checklists

  • cover image minikits brush teeth

    I can do it – brush my teeth

  • I can do it – pack my bag for school

  • I can do it – self care skills

  • cover image minikit morning evening

    I know what to expect – morning and evening

  • cover image what to expect at home kit

    I know what to expect at home

  • cover image sticker pack my school kit

    My school kit

  • cover image download school morning routines

    School morning routines

 

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Building a positive teaching assistant relationship

National Teaching Assistants Day recognises the valuable contribution that over 240,000 teaching assistants (TAs) make to the education and support of pupils in schools across the UK.

laptop pictures 1910Most TAs are employed to support pupils with special educational needs (SEN) either working with a child one-to-one or in a small group to reinforce what has been learned earlier from the teacher; others have more general classroom responsibilities.

I have met many TAs over the years as they have supported my son, who has autism and language impairment, during his journey through mainstream school. From this experience, these are my top tips for building a good parent/TA relationship.

Sharing information

Share information about your child’s strengths, interests, likes and dislikes with the TA as much as possible. My son loves trains and lorries so letting his TA know what inspired him helped her incorporate those interests into his writing and maths tasks. By sharing his dislike of noisy, crowded rooms she could suggest alternative, quieter activities we could use whenever he became overwhelmed in such situations.

Communication strategy

Decide how you will communicate and agree a way that works best for both of you. A weekly phone call might be sufficient for some whereas others may prefer more regular emails, texts or paper-based contact.

diary_webWhen my son was in primary school and had just one TA I found a home/school contact book to be most useful. This was used daily to share information about his activities, issues or events at home or school. Now that he is in secondary school with a number of TAs, I find regular emails to each assistant to be the most effective and efficient means of communication.

 

Understand responsibilities

Recognise that whilst the teaching assistant is supporting your child, the teacher has the responsibility for what happens in their classroom.

Qualified teachers are responsible for children’s learning so it’s important to ask the teacher and SENCO how your child’s TA is being deployed in the classroom to get the best from your child. Find out what training the TA has had to provide the support your child needs too.

If you are concerned about your child’s progress don’t blame the TA but speak directly to your child’s teacher and SENCO about your concerns.
TT thank you

Appreciation

Everyone likes to feel valued. Don’t forget to tell your TA how much you appreciate their support; a handwritten card and small gift at the end of the year is a nice token of gratitude!

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Back to School – an essential A to Z

Whether it’s your child’s very first day at school or they’re just starting a new school year, here’s our A-Z guide to help ease you gently back into the school routine.

  • A is for ALARM CLOCK

Choosing a fun model and showing kids how to operate it is a great way to teach them good time-keeping.

  • B is for BUSES

Have you got an up-to-date timetable and a vaild child’s bus pass? Does your child know where they are going to be dropped off and picked up? Have a trial run so it’s not left to the first morning!

  • C is for CALENDAR

Think beyond the first week of school and put important dates such as parents evenings, inset days and holidays in your calendar now.

  • D is for DROP ZONE

Set aside a designated place where the kids can leave their bags, coats and school books so it doesn’t all end up in a heap by the end of the first week.

  • E is for EMPTY BAG

Make a clean start with an empty bag and clear out anything still lurking in there from last term.

  • F is for FIND A PARENT

Have you got contact details of another parent at your child’s school who you can ask about school events if letters /permission slips don’t make it home?

  • G is for GYM KIT

Have you got the right stuff for P.E. and perhaps a seperate bag to put it all in?

  • H is for HAIRCUT

If you still have time before the first day of school, make sure they get a good cut so you don’t need to drag tired kids out after school or at the weekend to get it done.

  • I is for INFORMATION

If your kids are starting new schools, it’s time to dig out any information books you have received from the school and make sure you’re familiar with their routine and policies.

  • J is for JOIN

Get involved with the school community and join the PTA or check out after school activities the kids may want to join.

  • K is for KEY

If your kids are older do they have a spare key? Get one now rather than wait until first morning back!

  • L is for LABEL EVERYTHING!

We can’t shout this one loud enough!! Iron, sew, stamp or write your kids’ name on all clothing, shoes & personal items otherwise your jumper will look like all the rest in the lost property mountain!

  • M is for MEDICAL FORMS

Make sure the school has up to date medical information for each child with details of allergies and emergency contact numbers.

  • N is for NOTES

Remind your child to bring ALL notes home from school and check their bag each night for anything lurking in the bottom!

  • O is for OUTDOOR COAT

Have you bought one yet? It won’t be long before those cold days and dark nights start creeping in!

  • P is for PLANNER

If your school doesn’t provide one, look for a suitable notebook or diary to use as a homework planner, an essential for those kids starting high school.

  • Q  is for QUALITY TIME

Don’t forget that school can be stressful and tiring and that kids need to spend time away from homework, TV and other electronic distractions. Try and set aside some time to chat with them each day so you can pick up on any worries they may have.

  • R is for RECYCLE

Donate old school uniform to charity or for good quality articles check whether the school PTA runs a second hand uniform sale.

  • S is for STATIONERY

Check with the school what items your kids need to bring and make a regular check to see if anything needs replacing.

  • T is for TOMTAG

The essential tool to help kids pack their bag to school!

  • U is for UNIFORM

Making sure you start the year fully equipped will avoid any panics later and help children to feel more confident.

  • V is for VISION

Find our if your school offers vision screening and if not, remember to get your kids’ eyes checked regularly as it’s important to pick up any problems as early as possible.

  • W is for WEBSITE

Check your school’s site regularly for useful dates, school policies and curriculum guides.

  • X is for EXTRA-CURRICULA ACTIVITIES

Let kids choose what they want to participate in rather than what you want them to. You never know what hidden talents you might uncover!

  • Y is for YEAR GUIDES

Remember to check your school website or ask at school for details of what your kids will be studying this academic year so you can stay ahead of the game.

  • Z is for ZZZZZZZ

As the nights draw in, get into a sleep routine for school. Just don’t forget to set the alarm clock!

 

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ORganised KIDs – top tips for back to school

New uniform to buy, school shoes to get fitted, pencilcases galore in every shop – it’s that time of year again when our thoughts must inevitably turn to planning for the new school year.

Last summer our own back to school preparations took on a whole new dimension. My autistic son Tomas faced the daunting transition from his much-loved mainstream primary school to our local secondary. Clearly there would be many challenges to face and one big worry was how Tomas would manage the extra organisational demands of dealing with lots of different subjects.

Organised paperwork

folders for organising school papeworkTomas was going to need a system to help him keep his paperwork organised and in one place if he was to stand any chance of keeping on top of things. We started with eight A4 ring-binders in different colours and labelled each one with a subject. We labelled the pockets of a plastic concertina file with the same subjects and labelled one extra section ‘letters’ to be used for permission slips, newsletters, etc.

I explained to Tomas that he must take the concertina file to school each day and bring it home again every night. Any notes, homework or handouts he was given had to be filed in it immediately after each lesson to prevent them from getting lost in his school bag or left at school! I then showed him how to empty the file each night. We talked through how we made the judgement about what should happen to each piece of paper. It if was needed for lessons the next day it could remain in the file, any homework sheets should be completed and returned to the file and some papers would need filing in the ring-binders for later reference and revision purposes.

Independence

The aim eventually was to have Tomas apply the strategy independently. Direct explicit instructions and plenty of practice are often all that is required to help children learn basic oTomas filing paperwork in a concertina filerganisational or other skills. This approach can be particularly beneficial for a child with organisational difficulties although it is appropriate and useful for most children.

One year on and I am delighted to report that the system seems to be working!  With lots of practice and the support of his teachers, Tomas can now collect, sort and file all his own paperwork from school. Now I just need to apply the same rigour to my own filing system!