Easing Into a New School Year

Easing Into a New School Year
The beginning of a new school year brings up a host of feelings for a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Children who love the structure and clear expectations in the classroom are often eager to get back to a set routine. Children who have struggled socially or academically, or those who are bombarded with sensory issues in the classroom and throughout the school day may feel fear, anxiety, and anger about leaving the sanctuary of home to return to a place that makes them feel so out of place. For most kids, wherever they fall on the spectrum, there is likely a mix of positive and negative feelings about going back to school.

Although every child is an individual, with different needs and differing levels of required assistance, all children with ASD can benefit from a few simple steps to help ensure a smooth transition from home to school.

As a parent, it is important to become allied with the teachers and administration who will work with your child every day. Education is a collaborative effort. Providing the support a special-needs child commands also requires a collaborative effort. If the student has an IEP or 504 plan, hopefully the teachers will have ready access and be educated and informed about the individual student. Additionally, or in place of if there is no official documentation, parents should make an effort to meet with the teacher(s) prior to each school year to introduce the child and give both the teacher and the student an opportunity to ask questions and become more comfortable.

If an early face-to-face meeting is not possible, parents can write an "About My Child" letter or summary for the teacher to give them a sense of what works best for the child, what may trigger meltdowns, how best to communicate, and how the child learns best. It is helpful to explain the student's strengths, weaknesses, special interests, motivations, and deterrents. Including a picture of the child helps the teacher put a name to a face before the student steps into the classroom. Parents may offer to assist in the classroom or ask that the teacher contact them immediately with any concerns or questions to help encourage a cooperative relationship.

If the child is mainstreamed during most or all of the day, teachers may not even be aware of special considerations until an issue comes up or until they receive official documentation, which may take weeks or months. Parents should not assume the teachers in a mainstream classroom are highly trained to work with students with ASD. Although ideal, most teachers have minimal training and experience with special-needs children and will appreciate the parents' willingness to give them some insight into how to best help the student succeed in the classroom.

When parents and teachers both feel a sense of partnership, the needs of the child are much more likely to be met.


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Content copyright © 2019 by Tara O´Gorman, MSW. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Tara O´Gorman, MSW. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact BellaOnline Administration for details.