Last fall I could not wait for school to start. I had a 3-year-old who was doing ESE, which is exceptional student education. I was anxious for him, but beyond thrilled honestly to get him out of the house. My oldest, who was 4 at the time, was able to enter VPK which is voluntary pre- kindergarten. He was attending the school he had previously been at for preschool.
This fall is completely different though. My almost 6-year-old will start kindergarten, but he is starting completely different than when he started VPK. He is starting kindergarten with the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. This was utterly unexpected. Asher seemed perfectly typical at the beginning of the year but as the year went on his teachers were alerted that he was fearful over a lot of things. When he wasn’t able to transition between centers, I was reminded of his little brother, who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder when he was months shy of 2. All of his symptoms seemed to start to make sense to me, and I realized Asher wasn’t typical and he had autism just like his little brother. Asher was diagnosed this summer with autism, however, he is high functioning.
Back to school time to me is not exciting, it is seriously petrifying. I have read and researched ways to help us combat this unnerving feeling we all have and came up with these few tips.
- We have tried to provide summertime structure. The first thing Asher does when he wakes up is ask what we are doing that day. I’ve tried to make the summer fun. I would tell him what we had planned for the day after breakfast, and then what we were going to have to eat for lunch. If we are just staying at home, I map out the day for him so he knows what to expect.
- We are combating anxiety this year with familiar faces. Asher’s school allows teachers/aids to be buddies with children who might need it. His VPK teacher is offering to join him one day a week for an hour or so to help give him a point of contact- someone he knows and can trust.
- I am gonna try hard to facilitate friendships for Asher. Sometimes he can be a little socially awkward. He can get too excited and become overwhelming for some. As I can, I plan on sending in something little from Asher to the whole class. Something like a fun pencil, little puzzles or maybe even cookies. I am hoping it will make his classmates not shy away from him and see him in a better light.
- During the school day I will post a schedule on the fridge that tells Asher what he is doing that day. He specifically has issues with words like “later and tonight.” Having a timed schedule with pictures, since he can’t read, is very beneficial. It takes away the constant asking “What are we doing next?”
- I am prepared for a few couple hard months. Transition is always hard and I am prepared that August may not go over so well. I am expecting Asher to just not be enthusiastic about school. I am OK with that.
Returning to school can be very invigorating to some kids. For some kids though, especially kids with special needs, it can bring about intense anxiety. I am trying hard to remember that God did not give me the spirit of fear, but of a sound mind. It is so hard when dealing with your children. I hope if you deal with some of the issues I will be experiencing this school year that these tips and ideas will help you.