We find ourselves again in the transition period between summer and the start of school. I’ve hit on topics surrounding this area and the general preparing for school theme a few times over the past couple of years with my articles Starting Kindergarten and Transitioning Back to School , but I haven’t yet hit on the topic of attending open house.
We haven’t been to a wide range of schools but for those that we have been a part of, open house has always been an event offered as a means to enter the school (usually the day prior to start) and do a quick meet and greet, fill out some forms and gather some last-minute info. Open house can be a great opportunity to introduce your child to some of the new people and possibly unfamiliar places that the soon-to-start school year can bring, but at the same time, it can be a very overwhelming event to attend as well. I mean, it is easily the most people you will likely ever see inside the school at one specific time. It can be a lot for me at times so I can only imagine how an autistic child with sensory issues feels at such an event. So, let’s talk about some tips we as a family have used over these past few years to try and get the most out of open house night for school.
- Get there early or at least at the start!
At our school, the hours for open house are the same for all kids. I’m not sure if a sensory friendly time slot is something that any schools offer for an open house time (outside of just scheduling time to have your child tour the school not during open house) but it would be great if schools would! Until then, we will just make do with the time available, but we are always there at the start to make sure we don’t have to rush and can find spaces to take breaks as needed. There are rarely very many kids in the “resource room” areas for our school so strategically choosing those classrooms for us to visit in between the busy gen ed classrooms has always worked out well for us.
- Take pictures.
We are big advocates for picture schedules, and this is a great opportunity to grab some pictures that will come in handy later. Take places of the rooms, take pictures of the teachers, take pictures of others who may be working with your child. The meetings you have with each aid or teacher may be short but having photos on hand of the people that your child is going to be working with and talking through all the new changes of the upcoming school year with them (while having photos available to reference) has worked very well for us during their back-to-school transition process.
- Bring “extra hands” if needed.
I would firstly urge special needs parents to have as many things as possible worked out in advance of the open house at the school. It is rare to have a lot of time to talk with teachers that night as they have to meet with a lot of other parents too. But if you find yourself in the position of still having questions you want answered by the time of open house, then bring someone extra to assist if possible. The last thing you want to do is find yourself unable to get your questions answered. Having someone available to help assist with your child so you have those few minutes to talk with the teacher can be extremely helpful.
Even with open house being a very overwhelming setting, we still feel like it is not an event that we want our boys to miss out on. Even briefly getting to see their class and their teacher and everything that will be changing so shortly after, has always helped a lot in the mental process of making that transition back to school for them. And having them skip the event would mean being introduced to all that is new on the very first day of school and can only imagine what kind of additional anxiety and issues that would bring. I hope that this at least gives some starting ideas and that all families can find the plan or accommodations they need to make sure that their child can get the most out of their open house for school too.