Back to School Advice for Parents With Kids on the Spectrum
Change is difficult for all of us and change is an ever-constant factor in our lives. It is an even bigger deal for a child who is on the spectrum. One of the biggest changes occurring each year for our children is getting ready for a new school year which can include hectic planning with last minute adjustments. This can be a challenging time also for parents like me with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) due to the unique needs and considerations that must be addressed concisely for fluid transitions.
Considering these struggles, there is hope! With these proactive tips, there is a way to make the transitions and changes from one grade to the next, from one school to another, easier for both you and your child.
Seek the Support
Many schools offer autism support classes. Do take advantage of them. They will assist with understanding the learning characteristics of your child, how to plan appropriate goals, how to set up predictable routines, how to help your child develop social skills and communicate more meaningfully.
Model the Change Before the Change
Being in a new room can cause anxiety such as learning how to get there, where the restroom is, finding a new locker area in the school and much more. Addressing these triggers allows children to become more comfortable with the change before it takes place.
To keep up with this, perhaps create a storybook for your son or daughter as a tool to model the change before it occurs. I did this with my child Jaden one year with photos of his new classroom, new teacher, and friends who would still be in his new class from the previous year.
A new school or a new grade may mean changes in other routines, too. Perhaps the bus used to arrive at 8 AM but it now it comes at 7:45 AM. Gently reinforce the new routine, arranging the necessary steps and processes to help your child to adapt to it.
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Communicate, communicate and communicate some more
People on the spectrum are very texture sensitive. This can create challenges where appropriate clothing is concerned. For example, Jaden loves his fuzzy socks. I was concerned his teachers could think he was not dressed properly, so I felt the need to explain it to them. Silly perhaps but it was so helpful in establishing healthy communication channels for your child’s autism needs. As a result, Jaden’s teachers understand, and he’s happy. So am I!
When preparing in advance for changes for both your child and yourself, know that your child will likely have trouble adapting to changes in routine. Don’t become upset by that. Even more important, take good care of yourself, be gentle with yourself like not beating yourself up when your best-laid plans go awry. They will change all too often, but that’s okay!
Change is difficult, but not impossible including the changes for your child with autism and gearing up for the changes that come with back to school planning.
Terri Matthews‘ passion is helping people, both in overcoming obstacles and achieving their dreams. That passion fuels her purposeful schedule. As CEO of Jaden’s Voice, she leverages her extensive background in human resources and business strategy to fundraise and take action to benefit families in need. A key achievement of this is Jaden’s Friend, a directory and online community of autism-friendly businesses, services, providers and products that have received the Jaden’s Voice seal of approval of caring, committed professionals, educators, community partners and businesses from every sector that have gone the extra mile to become certified as autism-friendly.
This article was featured in Issue 77 – Achieving Better Health with ASD