With the end of summer quickly approaching, most parents have both a sense of relief and dread. Usually by August, both kids and parents are ready for the routine that school brings, but, with the start of a new school year, there is typically apprehension about what the new year might bring. And if your son or daughter has autism, that apprehension might just be over the top. New teachers, new classes, new schedule is a whole lot of new, and until kids get in the swing of things, new can be incredibly overwhelming. Here are a few ideas that might alleviate some of that apprehension and help prepare your child for a successful start to the school year:
- Go to the school a week before classes begin and visit your child’s classroom. If they have multiple classes, ask the school for your child’s schedule in advance and walk through the building following the schedule until your child feels comfortable with the routine.
- Request a meeting with your child’s teachers so your child can meet their teachers before the first day of school and the teachers can learn about your child’s strengths and struggles.
- Make sure the teacher knows weeks before school begins about any special accommodations your child needs. If they have an IEP or a 504 Plan, ask the teacher if they have received and reviewed it. Start that open communication before the school year begins.
- If your child needs new shoes or clothes, buy them in advance so your child can get used to the feel of the clothes before school begins.
- Contact the school’s transportation department and find out the bus schedule and the bus driver’s name. Ask if you and your child can meet the bus driver before the first day of school.
- Create a social story for the first day of school and use your child’s actual teacher’s name and room number as well as real photos of the school so they can familiarize themselves with what to expect.
- Ask the teacher if he/she has a visual schedule with the school day routine and if they don’t, ask if they can create one or offer to help make one for them.
- Meet with the school nurse, the guidance counselor, the cafeteria workers, the front office staff and anyone else who might come into contact with your child so they get to know your son/daughter too.
- Remind the teacher that “if they have met one person with autism, they have met one person with autism” and that your son or daughter is not THAT person, so, fill them in on who your child is and isn’t and help eliminate stereotypes before the first day of school.
- Get a big bottle of wine. Not for your kid, but, for you. The first month of adjustment is always a doozy for your child and for you. Wine helps.
Good luck to all the kids out there! Wishing them, and you, a happy, successful year full of acceptance and understanding.
Kate Hooven is a Central PA mom to three children, Kyle, Ryan and Emma. Her middle child, Ryan, was diagnosed with PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, an autism spectrum diagnosis) when he was 6; she stresses that anything she shares online, she does with Ryan’s permission. You can follow Kate here on her Keeping It Real blog; you can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and at her website, The AWEnesty of Autism.