With the summer coming to a close and the new school year already here for many students, it’s time for parents to think about their young ones returning to class for the year. This time can be even more stressful for parents of students with autism, when all the running around and adjusting for your child’s academic year can be a real drain on morale. In order to mitigate the pressure of school starting, there are a few things parents can try to make the year exciting for their child and to alleviate the parental stress of children returning to school.
1. Create a Strong Morning Routine
Routines are absolutely critical in the daily comfort and orientation for students with autism as many parents already know. Through a well-reinforced routine, it’s possible for students with autism to better accept the changes that come with a new school year. Establishing a good routine for school mornings will help reduce some of the stress of the day. If possible, begin adjusting the times when a child wakes and goes to sleep during the week gradually, to get them in the routine of the school week. Some simple morning exercises or stretches for mobility are always a good idea to wake up the body and the mind. If your student responds well to visual aids, create a large visual schedule that lays out the day so they know what to expect. Establishing a positive morning routine early on will become a crucial lifesaver for parents and students when the year begins to drag between holiday breaks. Beat back the lethargy before it begins.
2. Gather Important Info Early
It’s important to have all the information you need as a parent as early as possible. If you can, go to the school before the new school year begins to meet teachers, administrators and staff. If not, make sure to get names, phone numbers and emails as soon as possible so you can establish communications. If your child rides the bus, make sure to get a schedule and a list of drivers too. Find out about the PTO groups and volunteer opportunities for the family at the school as early as possible so you can plan to attend them. Volunteering at your child’s school will give you a unique interaction with them and help you to remain close while also giving them their individual space to grow.
3. Transition Smoothly
The new academic year is a stressful time for students with autism, full of anxieties and new stimulants that may affect their ability to concentrate. To alleviate the tension, many parents concentrate on making the transition go smoothly as the new school year starts. Having students meet teachers and staff early can relieve a bit of the new teacher anxiety. If your child is entering a new school, a tour of the facilities will help them get a feel for their environment during school hours. Make sure that they visit lockers, bathrooms, classes and other communal areas, such as the computer lab or library. While introducing your student to the environment, a guided review of emergency plans might not be a bad idea. One suggestion is to take your camera to the school to document important places and people, then compiling all the photos into a flipbook for your student to use for guidance throughout the year.
4. Communicate With Staff
When it comes to the needs of your student, don’t be bashful when contacting staff to lay out your child’s needs at the beginning of a new school year. The spectrum is wide and no child on the spectrum is the same. Often, teachers appreciate some guidance on how your child will interact in the classroom. This is particularly important for children with an auditory processing disorder because educators will have to bridge that communication gap and your input will ease that process. It’s a good idea to remain in contact with staff throughout the year as well, communicating about progress and behavior so you know best how to help your student at home. Don’t let communication breakdowns become a problem. Be involved early and often to help your student succeed.
Finally, don’t forget to Relax! After all is said and done, your student is going to be expanding their understanding while growing into a unique individual and it’s important to let yourself have a break. With any luck, the hardest part of the academic year will go down without a hitch and everyone can get settled into the routine of the new school year while dreaming of the next summer break.
For kids and teens with autism, education and advocacy can be a difficult gem to find which is something that Lexington Life Academy strives to provide. Lexington Services specializes in helping students with autism to harness their full capacity for achievement. Click here to explore how Lexington Life Academy promotes its students to prevail in life academically, socially, and professionally.
For more on other topics, click to read our previous blog post.