As summer winds down, parents are checking over school supply lists, going shopping for new clothes, and preparing to send their children back to school. For many parents and children alike, this is a very exciting time. However, for parents of children on the autism spectrum, this may be more difficult.
Autism spectrum disorders alter how information is processed in the child’s brain, but symptoms can present themselves in many different ways. There is not a one-size-fits all management system for children with ASD or learning disabilities, which is why it’s important pay close attention to your child’s behavioral tendencies to make sure they’re as comfortable as possible.
Autism back to school guides can be hard to come by, so here are some tips that will help your child adjust when going back to school:
- Adjust their sleep schedules as needed. If your child is used to waking up later in the summer months, it’s time to get them on track to have ample time to perform their morning routines. Weeks before school starts, begin waking your child up earlier and earlier.
- Make a schedule. Many individuals benefit from written schedules to stay focused and on-track. New places and people can sometimes be overwhelming for children with autism spectrum disorders and can cause them to lose focus. By being able to see their schedules in words, or even pictures, they can visualize what is about to happen and mentally prepare for a new routine or place.
- Make sure all of their clothing is comfortable. Even something as small as a tag on a shirt can really bother a child on the autism spectrum. With so many distractions available, making your child physically comfortable in what they are wearing can make a big difference. Try not to procrastinate on back to school shopping. This will give you plenty of time to make sure any new items of clothing are a good fit.
- Set up a preview of the school before classes begin. This works especially well for children who are changing schools or going to a new classroom for the first time. Letting children with autism walk through their schedule ahead of time may help them from becoming overwhelmed on their first day of school.
- Let your child help when packing their lunch. Atypical eating habits occur among three quarters of autistic children, so ensuring that they eat the lunch they are served is important to their health. Giving your child a few healthy options for lunch and letting them choose what they want to have that day is one way of giving them a level of independence while still controlling the nutrients that they receive.
- Talk with your child’s teachers before school begins. By advising your child’s teachers on how they learn best, they’ll be able to collect resources for children with autism and develop a lesson plan that will suit the needs of your special needs child. If possible, arrange meetings or personalized introductions with your child’s teachers to create a trusting bond. If your child’s school has a special education program suited for those with autism spectrum disorders, speak with them about your child’s individualized education program, or IEP, to understand the type of curriculum they will undergo.
You know your child better than anyone else, so being able to talk with your child about the upcoming changes they will experience is especially important. While is is important for your child to develop a level of independence, there is nothing wrong with helping them adjust to new experiences along the way.