Autistic Disorder, which, in some scientific circles has come to be known as ”mindblindedness” is a disorder in which the systems of neurology and development are disrupted. It usually presents itself in children between the ages of one and three. Autistic children are highly sensitive to routine and change. Disruption in their routines can cause great stress in their lives as well as the lives of their caregiver or their parent. Therefore, a special challenge for parents is the time of transition for the autistic child from home to school. However, the transition from your home into the school environment does not have to be so traumatic that it unsettles your entire world. This article will present five tips to help you and your child effectively manage the difficult, but possible transition of going from the home environment into the school environment.
Before your child goes back to school, do things that simulate the school environment. Like home, school is centered on routine. Use this to your advantage. Before the child goes back to school, begin implementing some new, school-like routines into your day. Have a set nap time. Perhaps a routine time to look at books. Make sure that you have a regular meal time. Schedule a time to play outdoors. .These are just a few of the routines that you can implement in your home that will prepare your child for school.
2. Talk about Routine
Get your child talking about school. Question them gently. Is there anything that they are looking forward to? Have them tell you about it. What about things that make them scared? Encourage them to talk about their fears. This time of sharing is so important because it lessens their feelings of loneliness and fear. Knowing that you know about the “monster under the bed”, all the things that they are afraid of, goes a long ways towards helping them feel a little more comfortable in their new environment.
3. Child in charge
Backpacks, lunch boxes, binders, markers…it may seem trivial to us, but it is ever important to the child, especially to the autistic child who is transitioning into school. Give them the keys to the kingdom. Let them make the choices about what they want and what they don’t want. Let them choose their backpack. Let them choose their binder. Let them choose their lunchbox. It may seem a small thing, but for them it is empowering. It gives them a sense of being in charge of their lives. Don’t overlook this important strategy.
4. Prepare Teachers
This is a must for helping your autistic child to transition from home into school. The child’s teacher must be prepared to attend to the child’s needs. He or she must know what to expect and understand why the child may be behaving in a disruptive way. The teacher will need to know how to help the child in such a situation. The teacher needs to be intensely involved in the transitioning process.
Although this tip is last, it does not mean it is less important. Sleep is extremely important for any child, especially the autistic child. Transitioning into school, is a difficult time for autistic children. It is so difficult that it can often cause a great deal of anxiety in children. This can cause disruptions in sleep, which, in turn, can cause sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can lead to moodiness, irritability,, an inability to focus, and even more anxiety. Make sure your child gets enough sleep. It will do him or her a world of good and make transitioning into school that much easier.
It takes a great deal of dedication to prepare a child for the transition into school. Autistic children are very special and need special care. There are innumerable resources on the internet of which parents and caregivers can avail themselves.. No excuse can be made that there was not enough information. While there were many strategies from which to choose, I chose five: routine, conversation, letting the child feel in control, the preparation of teachers, and sleep to be the most important.
Based on all of the information that I encountered on the internet, the most important strategy to implement was that of establishing a routine at home which mimicked the one at school. But whichever one the parent chooses, CHOOSE SOMETHING! Take action for your child. He or she is relying on you to take care of the scary things in life, like the “monsters under the bed,” like school! Don’t let them down. Be the great parent that you are, and most of all, LOVE your child, and your autistic child will be all the better for it.
The post written by: Ava Wadaby a writer for Autism Parenting Magazine.
Cover Photo by Ante Hamersmit