Creating a Successful September TODAY for Students with Autism

appleAs a new school year approaches, a number of worries can manifest for students with autism and their families. While educators do need to ensure steps are taken to help appropriately transition students into the next grade during the Spring and into the Fall, families are often left to stew with anxiety during the Summer. Will the new teacher be a good fit? Will they remember to give my child more time to respond? How will I know all of the accommodations are being used? Will they be able to handle some of their tougher behaviors? But families can help beat the heat of September by sweating some of the small stuff now. Here are some steps that families can take between now and the start of the school year to gear up for success in the schoolhouse:

  1.  Get out of the house.  Many of the sensory and social challenges children with autism experience are experienced less within the comforts of their own home.  If they become accustomed to only being at home, going straight back to the schoolhouse may be too big of a leap.  Help bridge that big step by getting them out of the house and around others, whether it be going to the store, going out to eat, or spending time at a summer camp.
  2. Keep high standards.  It is summer break and it is time to relax and kick back, just not at the cost of reverting back to old habits.  Organization, social, and adaptive skills can begin to decline during long breaks away from school.  Continue to challenge your child to perform at levels you know they are capable of.
  3. Work with your child on creating an “All About Me” document.  It can be a book, a flyer, or even a PowerPoint slide-show that can be shared with their new teacher(s) before school starts.  Spell out what your child loves, hates, and needs help in and do it using a lot of pictures.  Your teacher(s) will have already received the paperwork around your child’s needs, but the visual representation will help them remember the key details more easily.  An “All About Me” document is a great way to teach self-advocacy to your child and it can be a great way to help the teacher-student relationship start out positively.
  4. Visit the school.  The building may not be completely open, but it doesn’t mean you can’t go spend time around the campus.  Play on the playground, walk the track, and visit the main office if it is open.  Building that familiarity now can make less work for your child when needing to readapt in the Fall.
  5. Review any information you have about the school with your child.  Looking through photos, pamphlets, websites, schedules, or yearbooks can help ready your child with what they will be returning to come September.  They may not be thrilled with being reminded of the return to school, so remember to act genuinely excited for them about going back.  They will never see it as a good thing if you do not.
  6. Identify comfort items.  With your child, find that object that they may need to take to school to support the transition back.  It might be a favorite toy, book, or even a song, just something easy and predictable that can help ease the anxiety of the unfamiliar.  Do be careful though.  Whatever items are sent, work to have the item pulled back by October so that they do not become an unnecessary reliance for your child.
  7. Schedule a drop in visit.  Your child’s teacher may still be on vacation, but they will get to their email eventually.  Ask when would be a good time for them to come visit before school starts.  It doesn’t have to be much, just a couple of minutes in your child’s classroom(s).  This can be a great time to hand off the “All About Me” document!
  8. Get sleep times back on track.  Summer can throw kids for a loop with the longer days, causing them to stay up later and sleep in more.  But the busses are coming soon and you need your child to be up and ready to board.  In the weeks leading up to the new school year work on realigning bedtime and wake-up time with what will be the norm for the school year.  Making the mornings easier for the first days of school can go a long way in setting the tone for a successful year.
  9. Once teachers are back at school, schedule your future meetings.  If you expect there might be a need to meet periodically during the year as a family and school team, schedule them ASAP.  It is much easier to cancel a meeting because there are no challenges in need of problem solving than to frantically schedule a meeting when schedules are full.
  10. Breath, collaborate, and celebrate once school has begun.  Preparing for your child’s transition to a new grade is a journey and the first month is often the hardest.  Know that all you can do is the best you can do, and you have done that!  Advocate for any concerns you are hearing from your child’s school team, and then ask how you can be a part of the solution. Celebrate all steps large and small that your child makes.  You have worked too hard for your child for you not to enjoy this.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *