It’s back to school. Where do you start?
Prepare an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) with the school. Public schools are required to use an IEP for a child with autism or any other disability. It creates structured therapies and educational programs to ensure your child is educationally successful. These therapies and programs may include speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy and behavioral therapy. It will also identify if your child will be in integrated classes or a specific class for students with special needs. IEP meetings can be held anytime throughout the school year. Bring goals to your child’s IEP meeting. You have a chance to offer suggestions that for your child to learn for the next school year. Consider the following:
- Your child’s strengths.
- How would you like to enhance your child’s education?
- The results of recent any evaluations – inside or outside of school.
- Do they have behavioral issues that may interfere with their learning experience or environment?
- What goals do you and your child’s educators have for the upcoming school year?
- What activities did you do over the summer to help sustain their routine and progress from previous school year?
- Notify the teacher ahead of time about your child’s likes, dislikes, anything they may find frightening, allergies, etc. Remember the portfolio we outlined in our 100-Day Kit? This will help you at that time.
Establish bedtime and waking hours. Get your child used to a certain routine. Create a picture book of what the child’s day-to-day routine will look like.
- Accustom the child to future homework by introducing them to quiet activities. These may include reading silently reviewing what they learned last year. Assist them on things they may have forgotten.
- Go shopping for some comfortable back to school clothes. Since most children with autism have characteristics of sensory integration disorder, it is important to find clothes that do not irritate them. Find school supplies in their favorite colors or with pictures of their favorite things.
- Tour the school before the year starts. Make sure to not go on a day that it’s too busy to avoid overwhelming your child. Introduce your child to their teacher ahead of time. Try and get them comfortable with their surroundings like the lunchroom, the playground, the bathroom or the classroom.
- Prepare your child socially for school. Prepare conversation starter cards or make a social skills superhero comic book. Show how the child should properly express their feelings when they’re feeling happy, sad, excited, fearful, etc.
- Talk to your child about bullying. This important issue exists for all children, not just for children with disabilities. According to StopBullying.gov in 2012, 46% of children with autism in middle school or high school reported being victimized and 70% of children with autism that are mainstreamed, are bullied. Teach your child the motto to live by, “treat others you would like to be treated.” Notify the teacher immediately if you feel your child is being bullied.
Mothers give their personal stories on how they prepared their children with autism for school. “Helping our Kids with Autism Transition Back into School” by Esther B. Hess, Ph.D.