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If you’re a parent of a child with autism, you know that the start of a new school year can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. On the one hand, it’s a chance for your child to learn new things and make new friends. On the other hand, it can be a big adjustment, especially if your child is starting a new school. It can sometimes pose a set of challenges that might seem overwhelming. Let’s gently walk through some of these hurdles and understand why this period can be tough for a child with autism.
Why Going Back to School is Hard for Kids with Autism
As we peel back the layers of the complex world of children with autism, it’s evident that the back-to-school period comes with challenges. By nurturing a supportive and understanding environment, we can lighten their load, making the journey back to school less daunting and more enjoyable.
We’d love to say that school is always a safe and welcoming place, but sadly, this isn’t always the case. Kids with autism sometimes stand out from their peers due to their unique behavior, or interests. Unfortunately, this difference can make them a target for bullying. This unwarranted attention can significantly influence their emotional and social wellness. As parents and guardians, we must foster a dialogue that helps them navigate such situations with resilience and confidence.
Imagine if the buzz of fluorescent lights sounded like a rock concert in your ears or if the gentle touch of a shirt felt like sandpaper on your skin. For many children with autism, sensory experiences can be amplified to an overwhelming degree. This means the everyday school environment, with its bustling corridors and buzzing classrooms, can sometimes be too much. Recognizing and understanding these sensory sensitivities is the first step in helping kids create coping strategies, such as finding quiet corners to retreat to, or using sensory aids to help them focus amidst the chaos.
Learning the Social Dance
Just like learning a new dance, understanding social cues and participating in group activities can sometimes confuse kids with autism. Starting a conversation or taking turns might not come naturally to them, making the playground a challenging stage to perform on. With patient guidance, we can help them learn the steps one at a time, gradually building their confidence to engage in the social dance that the school environment often entails.
Communication is like a bridge connecting us to others, but for children with autism, building this bridge can sometimes be an uphill battle. They might find it challenging to articulate their thoughts or understand their classmates’ and teachers’ verbal and non-verbal messages. This, at times, can lead to moments of frustration and anxiety. Encouraging open communication and understanding at home can be a great start to help them build strong, sturdy bridges that allow for an easy flow of conversations at school.
Back-to-School Tips for Children with Autism
Because you anticipate the challenges, thinking of how to support the transition might have your stomach in knots. But don’t worry. We’ve got your back with some easy-to-follow, relatable, and encouraging tips to ease those nerves! Here’s how you can create a welcoming path for your child as they step into the new school year:
1. Embarking on a School Tour
Imagine stepping into a new place; everything is unfamiliar, and you don’t know what lies around the corner – a bit unsettling, right? Now, think of the wonders a little preview could do! A friendly tour of the school before it begins can be an excellent ice-breaker for your child. They can familiarize themselves with the layout, different classrooms, and the lovely faces they will see daily. It’s like a sneak peek into a movie they are about to star in!
2. Crafting a Morning Routine
Mornings can be a whirlwind, but establishing a routine can turn that whirlwind into a gentle breeze. Help your child create a morning rhythm to make them feel secure and ready to face the day. Picture it as a comforting morning dance, a series of steps that glide them right into the school day with grace and ease. And remember, practice makes perfect – start this dance a few weeks before school starts.
3. Pack a Comfort Buddy
A small sensory item tucked into their backpack can work wonders in calming their nerves. It might be a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, a snuggly weighted blanket, or a quirky fidget toy; these little comfort buddies can be reassuring amidst the bustling school environment.
4. Creating a ‘Get to Know Me’ Guide
Create a document that outlines your child’s strengths, areas where they might need a little support, and the accommodations that would help them shine. Sharing this guide with the school staff means they are better equipped to cheer your child on in their unique journey.
5. Fostering Teacher Partnerships
Building a strong bond with your child’s teacher is like creating a support super team for your child. Regular chats about your child’s progress and needs create a nurturing network that can adapt and grow with your child. Don’t shy away from discussing your child’s unique needs, sensory breaks or specific communication supports.
6. Embrace the Help around You
Remember, asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a step towards building a fortress of support for your child. Don’t hesitate to contact the teacher, school counselor, or even external professionals.
As we embark on our individual journeys this 2023 school year, it’s natural to feel a blend of excitement and a touch of nervousness. Remember, you are already doing wonderfully as a parent and are not alone. The upcoming school year is a canvas ready to be painted with new learnings, friendships, and growth opportunities for your child. A little planning and the helpful tips mentioned earlier can be the steady hand guiding your child to a successful and fulfilling school year.
Circle Care Services provides ABA therapy to hundreds of families. Contact us to start ABA today. Circle Care can help you and your family successfully transition back to school and equip you and your child with behavioral and social skills to serve them for the rest of their lives. Call us for a consultation or sign up for more tips and information.