Autism in the New School Year
A friend of mine recently told me, “You said August and September were going to be difficult months; you were right.” The new school year is always a challenge for kids on the Spectrum. New schools, new teachers, new rules, new classmates, new schedules and routines. Generally it takes 6-8 weeks for kids to acclimate to the new year and feel settled.
How Can I Make This Better?
Try to predict how your child is going to react to certain things; plan ahead. For example, if I know my son is having a change in his school schedule (such as an assembly), I need to explain the day before and the morning of to remind him and answer any questions. One nice thing about Autism is it is generally predictable once you know and understand your child. We are able to predict how our son will handle certain things and can then prepare accordingly.
Now certainly we are not always 100% accurate, and often he surprises us with handling things well, or on occasion not well. But being prepared and thinking ahead has made our lives SOO much easier.
Keep in Communication
Talk often to your child’s teachers and workers. I probably email my son’s Special Education team at least 3 times a week. I email his teacher a couple times a week. I want to know what is going on and how things are going for him. I am proactive in following through with his behavior at school and finding links to problems.
Talk often to any therapists your child has, especially right before a session so they know what is going on and how to work with them.
And of course, talk with your kiddo! Find out what is bothering them. Ask them how YOU can help them. Talk about your expectations. Be supportive of your child and communicate daily your love!
The Challenging Behavior- DAILY!
Like I always say, keep calm. Fight the battles that are worth fighting. You will need to find the balance between what is worth focusing on and what behaviors you can ignore. This is not easy and often stressful. On the one hand, you do not want your child getting away with everything, but you want some peace in your home as well.
Try to find the links between the challenging behaviors. Many times there are no links to be found; sometimes you find links in the most peculiar places! Use a lot of positive rewards. For example, when my son comes home with no sad faces on his behavior chart, he will get a “good boy treat” and often Mommy partakes in a “good mommy treat” too!
Use any close family and friends to help you! Find someone you can safely “vent” to and avoid venting in front of your child. We all need to be able to talk openly at times about our struggles. If you do not have that safe person, I encourage you to find someone quickly! You might want to have someone that you can talk with on the phone or face-to-face versus texting/email, etc. Pastors, social workers, and counselors are some examples of safe people if you do not have family or friends.
Hang in there! Hopefully by the holidays your child is more calm and confident in his/her situation. Then they get the nice holiday break and have to start all over again come January!
Use picture schedules or written schedules when necessary and helpful. Find other tools that will help your child succeed.
Remember, you are called to be parents/workers with this beautiful child, and you will become qualified!