Transitions can be difficult for younger children, particularly those with sensory processing disorders or those not fond of change altogether. Transitioning into daycare is no exception. But, depending on your child and family situation, they might not have any problems with a new daycare situation. Even so, it's a good idea to equip yourself with some tips on how you can help your special needs child adjust to daycare.
1. Visit the Facility
A great way to put your special needs child at ease is to visit the daycare with them, preferably a few short visits. This will allow them to interact with the daycare's primary caregiver and the other kids that will be in their class or room.
2. Accentuate the Positive
You don't need to (nor should you) go overboard by telling them they're going to love their new daycare. But, what you can do is help them focus on the positive things about the transition while acknowledging they're going to miss their old friends. Perhaps you can set up a play date with their old friends if possible. Tell them how proud of them you are and how this new setting will help them with their strengths (and weaknesses).
3. Let Them Know What to Expect
While you accentuate the positives about the new daycare, don't hype things up too much since this could backfire. Rather than telling them they're going to have so much fun and will have the best day ever, be honest about what they can expect.
For instance, tell them something like, "Once you arrive at the daycare, you'll meet your caregiver (say their name). Then, you'll likely play indoors in the class for a couple hours and then you'll be given the opportunity to play out on the playground before lunchtime. After lunch, it will probably be time for a nap and then a little later, I'll come and pick you up."
When they understand what will happen while they're at daycare, it should help them feel a little less anxious of the unknown and more comfortable. And, as their first day progresses, they'll see what you told them was correct and this should help them feel a little safer.
3. Read Books About Making Changes
Read books together with them about making transitions and changes. When they can hear similar experiences other younger children went through to their own situation, it could help them trust the situation better and feel less alone.
4. Talk With the Teacher
Ask their teacher if your child can bring along something to make their first day at the daycare more comfortable, like their favorite stuffed animal or blanket. This transitional object will help them adapt to their new environment.
It might not hurt to ask their pediatric occupational therapist for a few suggestions on how to make their transition to a new daycare calmer and easier.