Changing Schools with a Child with Autism

With summer quickly drawing to a close many families are focusing on stocking up on needed school supplies or possibly a new outfit or two. Still others may be trying to fit in one last get-away before the school year begins. For parents and children who are transitioning to a new school,  however, there is a whole different type of preparation going on. Adjusting to the start of another school year can be a difficult one for any student but, if you are a parent of a child on the spectrum, you know that there are transition issues you will need to prepare for long before the end of summer. Here are some suggestions from experts at Child Mind Institute and Children’s Hospital to make your family’s transition to a new school an easier one.

  • Visit the New School – Parents with children on  the spectrum know that stress from the unknown can be unbearable for their child. Find time to visit the school and meet key players in your child’s education experience. Find the bathrooms, lunch room and the area that your child will spend the most time. Take pictures (or videos) when possible to review later.
  • Talk about the New Schedule – Change, especially unexpected change, can be extremely stressful for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Children with ASD often prefer to have a sense of structure and to know what to expect during the day and what activity they will be doing and when. Find out from teachers and administrators what the course of the day will look like and use story boards, charts or whatever works for your child so he/she can start to learn the new schedule of the day.
  • Use a Count Down – For many children who are transitioning to a new school knowing how much time before the big change is important. Start some sort of countdown either on a calendar or on a device they use often such as a laptop or iPad.
  • Explain Why – For many children on the spectrum they want to understand why they are leaving the comfort of their old school and changing to a new one.  Whether the change is to a program that can assist your child or from a special education school to a mainstream school – explain your thinking and how the new school will benefit your child.
  • Be Positive – While you as a parent may have just as many nerves and anxiety about the change, you will want to be positive about the transition. Talk up the great things about the school.  Remember to be genuine. No need to overboard but merely accentuate the positive.
  • Brief Teachers and Therapists – While this may seem like a no-brainer, make sure you meet with your child’s team and each teacher that he/she will have throughout the course of the day.  Your child’s special education teacher can help you communicate the needs of your child clearly.