BACK TO SCHOOL ADVICE
Lars Perner, Ph.D.
The editors of my local ASA chapter asked me for
any thoughts I might have on going back to school. These ideas were
well received, so I thought I would share them in case there is
anything new here. To me, the biggest sources of discomfort were
surprises and sudden changes in routines. Therefore, I suggest the
If the new school year involves getting up earlier
than has been the case over the summer, it may be helpful phase
this in gradually well before the start of school. It may also be
useful to phase in the rhythm of meal times that will be in place
during the school year.
If the child will be wearing different clothes
to school than he or she did during vacation, it may be helpful
to phase this in ahead of time.
If siblings are going back to school, too, it
may be helpful to prepare for changes that will happen in the family
To me, it was difficult to transition from vacation
to full time school. If homework is involved, it may be useful to
get the assignments in advance and work on this material before
the start of school so that there will be less, and hopefully no,
homework during the first week. If possible, it may help the transition
if the child can leave early during the first week.
If a new school, or a new room at the old school,
is involved, it may be important to see this before the start of
the term. This room should be examined for possible sensory violations
(e.g., creaking doors, lights that may be flickering, fans that
may be running in the background, echo, or unusual odors).
If information about the child's schedule for
the coming year is available, it may be better to know this before
the start of the year rather than on the first day.
If there is a new teacher, this will of course
be a considerable adjustment. Obviously, it would be helpful to
meet this teacher with just the child and family before school starts.
To get a sense of expectations, it would be useful to know this
teacher's rules as explicitly as possible before school starts.
When I went to elementary school in Denmark, the
same students stayed together in a class from year to year, but
my understanding is that in the U.S., children are put into different
groups each year. If a child is in a large class, learning new names
and faces can be difficult. If photos are available, those may be
helpful. If not, perhaps the teacher, parent, or aide might teach
the child the name of one new student each day.
If new subjects start this year, advance notice
of what this class involves is essential, and it is important to
look for problems. For example, in my music class, I could not understand
the words that the other students were singing. New classes may
also involve possible sensory violations.
Saying that "Everything will be OK"
may sound comforting to the person saying it, but those of us on
the spectrum are likely either to be very disappointed or very skeptical
of this claim. This kind of "reckless and irresponsible optimism"
only served to reduce my ability to trust the person saying it!
Click here to go to the
home page to view the full range of autism fact sheets at www.autism-help.org
This personal story is under the copyright of the original author,
Lars Perne, and is reproduced with permission. You can visit his
or his site at: www.LarsPerner.com