Surviving the First Month of School

The angst of anticipating and living through the first week of school has come and gone. Children and parents alike now know the teachers’ names, are familiar with the classroom and layout, and are getting their morning routines down. In some cases, homework has already begun to be assigned. However, for some of our families with children with special needs, that rough patch may linger for longer than just the first week. Here are tips to help you and your child cope with the first month of school.

  • Expect behaviors to increase in the home. Many children on the spectrum do very well in school during the day, but later on at home, their behaviors become intensified. This is not uncommon. It takes a lot of energy to navigate a whole day of school. There are constant demands to comply with and to perform, social cues and innuendo to respond to that may come easy to typically developing children but are challenges for those on the spectrum, transitioning to and from activities and classrooms, interpreting the meaning of bells to indicate the beginning and/or end of a class or activity, the expectation to behave in an age-appropriate way – these are just a few of the obstacles children with autism have to tolerate and maneuver. It’s no wonder they fall apart when they get home. They are spent, and that’s okay. To compensate, allow them some time for decompression. As the weeks progress, their in-home behaviors should gradually decrease.
  • If your child has an IEP that includes accommodations and modifications, exercise them especially in the first 8-10 weeks of school. If the child is independent in certain tasks or subjects, gradually scaffold to build up to full performance. Remember not to pull away from these accommodations and modifications too quickly, or the reverse effects of what you are trying to achieve may occur.
  • If possible, attend Back To School Night. Ask the teacher how your child is doing and how you can provide support in the home. If asked, many teachers will give a lesson plan of curriculum they¬†will teach for the subsequent weeks. Be sure to ask for this so you can prepare your child for the upcoming subjects and lessons and decrease their anxiety of newly introduced curriculum.
  • If you are not doing so already, allow your child to pick out their¬†clothing to wear for the next day. Of course you may offer them help, but giving this choice empowers them toward independence and confidence. Over time, fade out your presence to build complete independence in this all-important daily living skill.

Congratulations and good luck to all you parents. Take a deep breath and don’t forget to smell the proverbial roses. You never know – your child may surprise you in the most unexpected of ways!