Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Autism and Middle School- OH MY!

Starting the new school year can be tough on any kiddo. Transitioning to middle school is probably one of the biggest anxiety inducing transitions! Now- let's throw autism into the mix, and the challenges become more intense. Kids with autism usually have struggles with things changing, and a new school year is chock full of changes. New schedules and routines to get used to. New teachers, finding classrooms, finding lockers, having gym EVERY SINGLE DAY (is that just me?) , new educational and behavioral expectations, new rules for 7 DIFFERENT CLASSES!! Anxiety and stress are at maximum levels, meltdown probability  at 99-100%. PLEASEDONTLETITHAPPENATSCHOOL! ( I am already freaking out.)

On top of everything else- the change of seasons affects our kiddos, especially those who are very sensitive to certain types of clothing. School shopping has to be an exact science- but we all know it never is.  Middle school also means much less outdoor energy release, and much more indoor, have to sit, listen, and cope.  Gym (as much as I dread it) will be The Boy's only physical release opportunity- which sounds great- but gym is his least favorite class.  I am not counting on it to be a good way for him to get the much needed movement and exercise he needs to regroup. (Freaking out more now)

Although I try to keep bedtimes consistent throughout summer- it is a losing battle.  Not only will I have to get him adjusted to regular bedtimes again- he will have to get up earlier, eat, take his meds, get dressed and get ready- probably with ZERO TV time.... (I am seriously starting to hyperventilate).

Once they are at school, the sounds, sights, smells are all new stimuli that is very likely to put sensitive sensory systems into hyperdrive. (I need a drink).

What about the teachers that don't know how to work with an autistic kid?  We have had meetings, made sure a "Meet The Boy" letter was circulated, not to mention the numerous calls, and emails over the summer with concerns. But how is that all going to work out the first day, week, month?  (Somebody get me a glass of wine)

Yes, there are some positives, The Boy doesn't care about a new backpack, isn't too concerned with clothes, and will more than likely do well once he learns his schedule and that daily routine is established.  (Feeling a little calmer-maybe)

I wish I could say that the elementary school has well prepared him for the changes that are coming.  Working with him over the summer- I hope to have got him somewhat caught up- since he was never challenged in elementary school. Educational anxiety is the last thing he needs.... (PITA mom gearing up)

So here are are some things I have thought of- this is by no means everything, so  please comment with your tips and hints!  We have to stick together! 

Good Luck to us all!!!

Prepare yourself!!! A calm mom and dad are better able to help a child create a smooth back to school transition. 

Find or create social stories to help your child with any concerns about getting ready for and going to school. (Yes- even for Tweens and Teens!)

Re-set their internal clock! Early to bed, early to rise. (This will probably not earn you any points if you have a late sleeper- but we all know how erratic our ASD kiddos sleep patterns can be!)

Get a list of school supplies and put together a backpack WITH your child! They may have old favorites from the previous year- incorporate those if possible.  

Let your child pick out their outfit (with guidance if necessary), and lay it out the night before. By both of you working together to pick an outfit the night before, anxieties about “what will I wear” are reduced. Additionally, having the outfit picked out the night before speeds up getting out the door the next day.  (Tweens and Teens on the spectrum want to be cool and fit in, let them help with the clothes shopping!)

Put yourself out there! Make it clear to teachers and administration that you are available to answer questions and provide support for your kiddo. Make sure they have your phone number and email address and encourage them to use it!!  Be polite, but be firm, this is your kiddos education and you take it seriously, and you expect no less from the school.

Have confidence in your child’s abilities. They are smart,capable, and ready to learn, if given the right environment and right tools. Help make sure they have these tools and they will be the best they can be! 


HERE ARE SOME TIPS FROM READERS AT Red Vines and Red Wine on Facebook

Jennifer R:  Make appointments with teachers/principal and get them into the school as many times as possible for an easy transition.

Lauren W: Don't wait till the first day to introduce new school shoes!!!! It takes mine about 2 weeks to like new shoes!!! Lol

Jess M: start talking about the coming changes and getting the routine started it will make it sooo much smoother to transition