The social aspects, constant changes and over stimulus of school can sometimes be overwhelming for a child with high functioning autism (HFA) or Asperger Syndrome. Luckily, there are measures you can take that will make school a more pleasant place for your son or daughter. For example, you can provide him or her with emotional support, tools for adjusting to change, back-to-school items, and other accommodations for his or her needs. Also, make sure you adequately communicate with your child's teachers, so they can understand your child’s unique characteristics, habits and preferred environment. Here are some tips that will help you set your child with autism up for success at school:
If your daughter who has autism comes home distressed from her day, let her talk with you — or communicate however she chooses —and make sure you listen and watch carefully. As a child on the spectrum, she may have difficulty expressing or understanding her emotions. It’s important that when you actively listen, you identify her specific references to any grievances, so you can help identify the emotion she may feel. Consider making a feelings chart that will help her relay her emotions with you. Utilize emoticon-style faces — happy, sad, angry, surprised, sleepy, neutral and so forth. Then let her draw the face that she feels or identify the one that best represents her experience. You can involve the whole family in the feeling chart so your daughter feels like this is a task that everyone participates in, not just her. Have a brief discussion with her about where she's at on the chart and where she wishes to be. You can also discuss methods that will help her achieve her desired feeling.
Adjust to Change
If your son is entering middle or high school, he will likely be introduced to several new instructors. The rotation of classrooms will also involve many different students, unlike his previous elementary classrooms where he had the same classmates for the duration of the year. This transition may deter him from engaging in his school work and losing interest in his academics. If your son is less interested in school, his work and morale will likely suffer. The negative feelings may be attributed to developmental changes like shifting of interests, distracting bodily changes, bullying, and a larger peer group to navigate. Children with autism can do amazing things, especially if they have a source of motivation. As his parent, you can help your son stay motivated in school by instilling the idea that knowledge is power. Help him stay motivated with homework and provide assistance and incentives. My Aspergers Child has a helpful list of homework tips, such as the establishment of routine, creation of a rewards system and how you can be available, flexible and steadfast in your support.
Equip your kid with all the gear he or she will need to excel in school. Involve your child in any back-to-school shopping, so he or she can choose the clothing and school accessories that best suits his or her personality. Make sure you purchase items that will help your child stay organized. The more tools he or she has for organization and routine, the more empowered he or she will be for academic success. Help your son or daughter find items that will aid with any sensory overload. Many individuals with autism will wear sunglasses so they aren’t as affected by optical variances. For example, the flickering of classroom fluorescent lights are incredibly distracting and could cause your child headaches or frustration. Consider buying your child a cool pair of sunglasses that will help them function and fit in with their peers.
Prepare the Teacher
Make sure the school administration, counselors and teachers know about your child’s place on the spectrum. Each individual with autism is different — it's important that the school staff understands your child’s behavioral nuances, so they can provide adequate support. If your child has multiple teachers, in middle or high school, inquire as to which teacher has had the most experience with Asperger Syndrome. A teacher who is greatly knowledgeable about children on the autism spectrum is more likely to be an advocate for your child. This teacher can help provide the support and care that your child will need while he or she is away from home.