We have entered the final month of summer vacation and it may feel as though you have just settled into a rhythm. For children on the Autism spectrum and their families, returning to school can be a disruptive and anxious experience. Here are 9 tips to help ease the transition:
2 Weeks Before
1. Visit the classroom: Try to get into the classroom ahead of the school open house when the classroom is empty. Bring a camera and take a couple of photos of the room that can be used later as a reference.
2. Meet the teacher: Meet with the classroom teacher one on one. If there will be a special education or paraprofessional helping your child, make an effort to get to know him or her, as well.
3. Look over IEP plan: Review the IEP or 504 plan. If appropriate, request a meeting with the administrative and teaching team responsible for implementing the plan to get on the same page.
1 Week Before
4. Learn the school routine. Write down each step of the day from drop off through pick up.
5. Encourage your child to share concerns: Give your child the space to safely articulate his or her hopes and concerns.
6. Create social stories: Develop a social story for your child around the parts of the daily routine that are causing the most anxiety. A social story is a visual representation of a sequence of actions, i.e. I put down my backpack on my desk, I say hello to the teacher, I look at the board to see today's routine....
Once School Begins
7. Establish a new home routine: Maintain consistent boundaries and a predictable routine in the home as much as possible. Unpredictability in the classroom can be balanced by predictability at home.
8. Establish positive self talk: Help your child to find a confident and loving inner voice. "I can smile, and make my friends smile", "I am good at many things."
9. Process, process, process... Keep the lines of communication open. Prompt your child to share their day, not just a list of events, but feelings, conversations, and reactions.
Aaron Weintraub, MS runs child-centered social skills groups with a focus on children and teenagers with Pervasive Developmental Disorder,Asperger Syndrome, High Functioning Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and Shyness. Strengths-based approach in a community based setting. Groups available in Tolland, Mansfield, Willimantic, Hartford, Vernon and Coventry Connecticut.