As a parent I’ve read many articles floating about the net, all written with the aim of assisting parents who have children returning to school this September. I find that many do not offer any information to assist those parents of the “non typical” children, the child with autism or aspergers.
In some respects I kind of think, “Well, why would they” but when I think about the high numbers of children being diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, I ask myself, “Well, why the hell haven’t they!” I’m no expert, “Far from it” but as a parent of an almost 11 year old boy with a diagnosis of Aspergers syndrome who has been through both mainstream and special school (where he thankfully now resides) a child who was an active school refuser, who had been excluded more times than I care to remember, I have needed to tried one or two techniques aimed to ease the whole returning to school situation! It’s these few little techniques that I am willing to share with you here today! Sadly there are no quick fixes, believe me I know!
I Hate this uniform
Uniform, a total nightmare for the child with autism, especially the one who is tactile defensive! We all like to buy new school uniforms at the beginning of the new school year (we often don’t have a choice what with the rate they grow)! However, if that uniform still fits, don’t change it! Of course there are those times it unavoidable, change of school, the start of secondary school is one great example that a new uniform will need to be brought! When little man was at his mainstream school, they suddenly introduced a new school uniform policy. Uniform posed a massive problem for little man causing all sorts of issues (even exclusion). He went from no uniform to full uniform, a huge change for any child! So, Here’s some tips on ways to make wearing uniform that little bit easier for your child on the autism spectrum!
Get it washed
That’s right, wash new uniform in your usual detergent, not once but a good few times prior to your child returning to school. Use a fabric softener and if possible dry in the tumble-dryer as opposed to the washing-line, where clothing tends to become stiff. The tumble-drying of uniform will help to create maximum softness of garments.
Get your child wearing the uniform for a few minutes each day increasing the time as you go. This enables your child time to get used to uniform rather then expecting them to wear it for the first time when returning to school. Think of it as wearing in a new pair of shoes to ensure they don’t hurt your feet when you wear them on your big night out for the first time.
Let’s not go Shopping
Most children with autism hate the prospect of shopping, even those that enjoy it fail to cope with it well. If you are lucky enough to be in the position of leaving your child with a loved one when doing your, “back to school shop” then do so. If something don’t fit you can always return it! Shopping online is another good idea. Try to buy from those you have brought from before. This way you will have an idea of the ranges they stock and the service you will receive (fast delivery, good returns policy , etc.) Your child will also be familiar with the texture, material of the clothing, important for those who are sensitive to certain tactile input. If you do find you have to take your child shopping then go at a quieter time/day. Have the aim of buying everything in the one shop (if possible). You can also check stock before hand if stock is in! Some stores will be helpful enough to check and then hold the items back (especially if you explain your situation) This means you can pretty much do an in & out job which could save your child from experiencing a sensory related meltdown!
Most schools will introduce all children to a new teacher or learning environment (classroom) before the last day of term. This is fine for the typical child but those on the spectrum may require that bit extra! If your child is in a special school then it’s my guess lots will be done to prepare your child for even the smallest transition. Mainstream schools also have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for the child on the autism spectrum and this would be considered one of those adjustments! Speak to your child’s teacher or school senco to see if the child could maybe spend extra time with the new teacher in the run up to the end of term (school year). Maybe arrangements can be made for your child to spend a few hours per week in the new classroom starting a few months before hand ( though there are times that schools will not be aware of the child’s new learning arrangements till the last few weeks of term, nonetheless, careful preparations need to be made). All the above and more should be done for a child making the transition from pre-school to reception and those off to secondary , etc.
A great idea would be to create a social story for your child. This could be done with the help of your child’s teaching team. A picture of the new classroom in-which your child will learn and even a photo of the new teacher could prove a massive help. You can spend time going through your child’s social story with your child during the school holidays. If this is something you haven’t done already, don’t panic! You can create a social story with the focus of change and returning to school with cut-outs from magazines, newspapers or from visuals downloaded from the net, it’s never to late!
It’s important to use visual timetables at home if used in school, this helps to create some level of consistency. Many children require images & picture symbols where others do just fine with words. Visual timetables can be expensive but you can get creative and make your own (maybe I will show you how in a post one day). Be sure to highlight during the holidays how many days are let till the return to school (Children on the spectrum like to know what’s coming next). We had this highlighted at the side of little mans home made magnetic timetable. We just used the symbol for school with the correct number next to it as to indicate how many days remained till he returns to school. This is also a great way to avoid school refusal.
Another good thing to do is remain consistent throughout the school holidays. I mean keeping the bedtime routine the same. Sadly little man has trouble maintaining bedtime routines at the best of times which technically puts me in no position to advise on the matter! Still, the concept is a good one, which is basically to keep things the same! Who knows it could work for you.
Well, that’s it, I have an arm arch from the typing, so I’m done! I hope my little tips assist you in some way, even if it just makes one thing less trying that’s got to be something?
Little man has just two and a bit weeks left. Here’s hoping we have a good return to school.
What back to school tips do you have?