Autism, school & learning

boy looking on a tidied desk

It’s a new school year for everyone. For some, it may be there first time at school. For others, it may be there first time at a brand new school.

Whatever is the case for you, it’s a new year, a new beginning for children. There are many feelings experienced by children, any child, at the start of a new year. Some may be excited, others anxious, others sad and some may even have a combination of these feelings. It’s the same for parents as well, just in a different way.

For children on the autism spectrum, it can be more challenging. Children with autism need lots of preparation whenever they are starting a new activity like school or a new experience where they have never participated before.

We all want our children to settle in and start learning right away, but is that a realistic expectation? Let me share my experience with you.

This year is a big year for us as our son is transitioning to high school. Not only is it a new school, there are new kids (and twice as many!) as well as new teachers and a new environment to navigate.

We always do lots of preparation for any “new” things with our son, but this time we had to do a little bit extra. We were applying to a school outside of our area and we didn’t know if our son would get into this school. This was a much better “fit” for him and his needs, but we only found out late at the end of the last school year.

So what now? We had to figure out how to prepare him, of course.

First we talked about the school and where it was located and that he would be starting high school there in the Fall. Then we took him to the school and took some pictures of him inside and outside at key places so that he would be familiar with this when we talked about it in the summer.

I printed these pictures and made them into a little book so that he could visually see the school, and see himself in the photos so that he would remember where he was going. We also arranged a visit the week before school so that he could pick out his locker and see some of the rooms that he would be in.

Since he has some assistance at school, I was able to speak with them in the morning when I dropped him off as well as after school when I picked him up, just to give them some tips on our son and how to best support his learning.

I don’t know all of his teachers yet, but I sent all of them a very nice note with some samples of things that our son had completed in these areas so that they could get a sense of where he was at to be able to help him succeed.

That is kind of where we are right now. It’s a new start and for our son as well as me and we have to navigate a whole new circle of people with whom to communicate and share information with so that we can ensure the best possible school experience for our son.

I must admit that this is very challenging for me as I like to be on top of everything all the time and I have to find ways of communicating other than speaking to teachers or support staff directly at times.

For all children on the spectrum, education and people who are really committed to supporting and nurturing your child’s educational development is so important. I have had pretty good luck in the past with all of the teachers and other staff that I have dealt with and although we are in a different place, my hope is that I will be able to find those teachers who really “get” my son and are able to contribute to his success! When he comes home happy, that is a big win in my book because I know if he is happy, he will have learned something.

My wish is for all parents who have children on the spectrum to have a positive, happy start to the school year and beyond!

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