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Back To School Is Around the Corner

Back to school time is always an  exciting time of year! The new school year lies ahead, full of promise and possibility.   Many families start early to prepare their family member with autism for the new school year. Meeting a new teacher before the first day of school, going on the bus route in advance are practical steps that can make all the difference when it comes to easing the transition back to school.  We want to hear from families including students, teachers, siblings, about what you did to make the transition go as smooth as possible.

This month’s Community Connections: Back to School is aimed at helping families who have a child with autism make a smooth transition back to school. We produce an eNewsletter, a blogs, and a Facebook “Q and A session,” bringing together expert interviews, family experiences and a variety of resources on the topic. Sign up here to receive Community Connections.

  1. candie
    August 1, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    My son is making the transition from preschool to Kindergarten and I am terrified, especially after reading the cirriculum. Now I’m trying to gather info for his teachers on his meltdowns and other areas of concerns and so overwhelmed!

    • Ymkje Wideman
      August 3, 2011 at 3:47 pm

      I can relate to how you feel… I am taking care of my grandson, who is also preparing to go to KG. Not only is this going to be new for him, but we also just moved,so it’s an entirely new venue with all new faces and surroundings. I am preparing with a certain amount of trepidation also, as my grandson has lost some ground in spending the past few months at home. Fortunately, I received quite a bit of input from his preschool teachers in his last location and they gave me copies of all the tools they used with him for his new teachers. My grandson is high-functioning, and he reads and writes, but social skills, transitioning, and communication are difficult for him and melt-downs will happen if things just don’t go “right enough” for him.

      To ease the transition, I asked his new school if I could come a few times and walk around the building with him, which they said was fine. In fact, another mom just called them about the same thing, which was good to hear. I also asked if we could meet the teachers ahead of time, which is working out also. I am writing up a little list for them of things that came up with him during his last preschool year, and the solutions the teachers and I found together. For example, I wrote a list of his schedule on a slip of paper that his speech therapist printed out for me, called “My Day”. We would write it before leaving the house for school each morning, and while in class he got to cross things off his list before transitioning to the next activity. He also had a “Velcro Stick” with labels that the teacher would use for additional things that might come up. Then he peeled the labels off once an activity ended, and another began. Those little tools made such a difference.

      I don’t know if that is something this would help in your case, but I thought to share those few little things that I am doing that I hope will help my grandson transition back to school more smoothly. I am sure there will be some issues we will need to address, but I hope that as in my previous location teacher/(grand)parent communication will be good, so that we can address each incident positively and find ways to get around or solve the problems.

      I wish you all the best and strength for all that’s before you.

      Oma (grandma of 5-year old boy with Autism)

    • Patricia Haidvogel
      August 10, 2011 at 12:00 pm

      I can relate. My son is also making the transition from preschool into an integrated kindergarten that is 3/4 average kids. I am terrified and overwhelmed. He does not handle change well at all. Everything is going to change right down to therapists. I don’t know if i should make them a guide or what i should do.

  2. Anna
    August 1, 2011 at 2:46 pm

    My son is 13 (autism, OCD, MR)and is about to make the transition to Jr High with his 11 year old neurotypical sister.. We live in a small town, so it seems that everyone knows everyone else, but I do not happen to know his teachers for next year. I do know the principal, and some of the regular ed teachers in Jr High. From what I know of this principal I am quite apprehensive about the coming year. I have heard from others that he has made changes in anticipation of my son’s arrival to isolate the special ed students from the general ed population in the belief that my son will be too disruptive to the other children (I am guessing at his motives, I only know about the changes he is implementing) My son does have some behavior issues, but I know that interaction with “normal” students is crucial for him. He does have some good bonds with some of these kids since they have all been going to school together since before pre-k for some of them. Some of them go out of their way to be kind to him and to include him in activities, I would hate for him (or them) to loose that. I usually make a handbook of sorts with information about my son to hand out to teachers and support personnel when he is making a campus change. Does anyone else have any ideas about how I can better prepare my son, and the staff prior to his arrival on the first day?? Any words of advise or encouragement will be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance for your time.

    • Sarah
      August 1, 2011 at 3:28 pm

      Anna, I’m sorry to hear that the principle is planning for the worst. I would absolutely demand a meeting with said principle prior to the start of school to hear his thoughts/concerns and to share your own. We’re our kid’s best advocates and also might decrease the apprehension you so rightly feel. If not, at least you know what your son can expect and youcan start fighting now for what he needs. GOOD LUCK and update how you all are doing!
      ;) Sarah…mom of 2 little girls Dx classic autism

      • Anna
        August 5, 2011 at 11:48 am

        Thank you so much Sarah. Registration starts next week, so I am sure I will have my chance to speak with him then. I did speak with him at my son’s ARD meeting last spring and one of his main concerns was finding out if Justin had ever touched a girl student “inappropriately” ….and he seemed pleased that my son was a “neat freak” and likes to keep his clothes, hands, and work area clean and likes his germ free work space away from other students. I have had to negotiate with this principal before, as my oldest was a student when he (the now principal) was vice principal. Of course then if I didn’t like what he had to say about a particular situation I could just go around him to the principal, and did on occasion. I am curious to know who the vice principal at the school will be this year, and hope to meet that person during registration day. Hopefully I will know more what to expect after we register….. I plan to tour the school and classrooms that day if they will let me, and arrange for us to come up there some before the start of school to get him acquainted with the building and the teachers.
        Thanks again Sarah. Best of luck to you too, and thank you for the advice and encouragement. I am sure you have your hands full as well. I bet you are like me though, and wouldn’t trade your babies for the world :) I will try to let you know how things go next week if you would still like to know.

    • Melissa
      August 5, 2011 at 3:10 am

      Hi Anna, I agree with Sarah. The more proactive you are the better. I would also ask to speak with the teacher(s) before school begins. It may be helpful if your son could meet the teacher(s) and tour the school without all the normal chaos in order for him to orient to the new surroundings. If you are able to do this, take a camera and take pictures of his classroom, the bathroom, the cafeteria, and any other place he may go. Even take photos of the principal, the nurse, and the teacher(s). Before school starts prime him with the pictures by showing them to him and that way he can become a little familiar with where he is going. I really liked Helen’s trifold idea too, as a special education teacher I can really appreciate this. If it turns out that your principal’s motives are to “isolate” your child or any other children with special needs from their typical peers (and I hope it is not but we don’t live in a world where all principals understand the needs of special education) I would argue “Least Restrictive Environment” and advocate for your son and the other children to be included when ever possible with their typical peers. If it becomes an issue or even how you are concerned now, you have the right to call an IEP meeting and discuss this with the IEP team (which you are a part of). This site is from 2005 and may need a little updating but it will give you the basics of LRE: http://www.advocatesforchildren.org/pubs/2005/lreparentguide.pdf. Also try googling LRE and read about what your state and school district says. It is a federal guideline as part of IDEA, http://idea.ed.gov/explore/view/p/,root,statute,I,B,612,a,5,. You can also refer the principal to Autism Internet Modules at http://www.autisminternetmodules.org/ it may help him/her understand ASD a little better. Good Luck!

      • Anna
        August 5, 2011 at 12:03 pm

        Oh my goodness! Thank you Melissa for the wonderful ideas! I really like the picture idea (and Helen’s trifold idea), and thanks for the links. I may print some of that out for easy reference. You should see their faces when I show up with a stack of reference papers to refer to :) Last year we had a few issues with bullying where I did just that. I have never called an ARD before, but if I have to do it to make things right for him I will just have to do it. What makes it so hard is that I think this principal really feels in his own mind that isolation for my child would be the best thing…. I will have to start to work right away to convince him otherwise. Thank you so much for the ideas and the encouragement. I feel so ill equipped for these things. Knowing there are other parents out there who fight the same fights and are willing to share ideas and encourage me to bolster my resolve…. that is priceless… thank you.

    • Stephanie
      August 5, 2011 at 11:38 am

      Anna –
      So sorry to hear about this. Children with any type of special needs should NOT be isolated. How are they to learn to deal with society? It’s awful that we have individuals that can make such careless rules. Especially within the school system. I have an autistic (high functioning) daughter who is 12 years old. She will be entering Jr High as well. She is very nervous and doesn’t want to attend. I am tempted to pull her out and home school. She sees a social worker and her social worker gave me a heads up that the next two years will be the worst (due to children). It sounds like you have an even bigger fight on your hand with this principal. It’s people like that that make it harder for these wonderful kids to make friends and open up to socialization.
      My prayers go out to you and your family – and FIGHT for what you believe!!!!

      • Anna
        August 5, 2011 at 12:30 pm

        I know exactly what you mean about the home schooling thing! I have known several families (of “normal kids-not in our town) who have done just that for very similar reasons. So unfortunately it isn’t only our special needs students who need to be “protected” from other children. I think it was exactly the right thing for them to do at the time. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. So far we have had some bullying issues…. even had to change him to special transportation last year because of the intense bullying on the bus. But, over all the kids in the school–in his grade– (so far) have been very supportive of him, so I don’t think that would be an option for us. Besides, I always feel like he needs the structure and interaction with others he gets at school. Maybe if you do decide to home school for awhile do you know if there are others in your area who home school? I think some places have home school networks, or groups where they get all the kids together once or twice a week to do outings and have some “social” time. I could see it being a very positive thing for everyone involved. My heart goes out to you guys. Go with what you feel is right for your sweet girl …… I will keep you all in my thoughts and prayers as well….. I hope you can let me know what you decide and let me know how things are going …. if there is anyway I can help, let me know.. at the very least I could connect you with someone I know who did take their daughter out of public school and home schooled her for awhile …… maybe they would have some ideas I don’t. Praying for ya’ll.

      • Barbara Pons
        August 5, 2011 at 12:30 pm

        I agree that no they shouldn’t be isolated. My son is (11 yrs old)high functioning autism too but he is now in a special school with kids just like him. He is doing much better because it is a smaller classroom. approx 12 kids and 1 special ed teacher and 2-3 other people in the room to help out. He even made a really good friend there but he live 45 minutes away and it is hard to get togher. I had to fight hard to get him out of his old school because the kept saying the Least Restrictive environment. I hated that word. I said my SON ISNT learning a thing at this school. Anyway he is now learning, his self esteem is WAY up and he is doing awesome.
        Only you know your son the best and the schools should really listen to the parents way more then they do now. Good luck and fight if you have to!!

  3. Helen
    August 1, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    My daughter and I put together a little trifold “getting to know ___(Me)__” brochure for the teachers and other staff members which she would give them on meet the teacher days before school started. This included a short intro, things she liked and didn’t like, what strategies worked and didn’t work in the classroom.” As she grew older, she put together the entire thing on her own. It was a short and sweet introduction and the teachers seemed to take it to heart more because it came from her heart. Teachers would also include it with their substitute lesson plans so subs would be aware of her needs as well.

    • Carol
      August 5, 2011 at 12:34 pm

      We do the same thing at my church so that parents that do want to share their childrens disabilities or issues in the classroom setting can in a simple description of likes/dislikes/medication etc. Some share, some don’t, but I have found that letting the staff know what their triggers are really helps in communication. We also have a special needs committee at my church and will designate a “buddy” for a child that needs special attention.
      It is a new school year for us with a new IEP for 3rd grade. I have a very structured teacher for my son that was diagnosed with several disabilities including AS. His new teacher is very well known and highly recommended. My poor son has not had very good school experiences since Kindergarten. It is all going to change this year!! Therapy, my advocacy, and the IEP will change everything for my son.

  4. August 1, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    I’m glad to say that even though I have mild Autism I am still getting close to graduating from college this semester

    • Connie Gunn
      August 5, 2011 at 2:37 pm

      Congrats Damon, It brings hope to my heart when I read that.

    • Carol
      August 6, 2011 at 10:16 am

      Damon… you rock! Congrats!

    • Stephanie Riddick
      August 19, 2011 at 7:11 pm

      Congrats Damon!! You bring joy to my heart, and hope for my Grandson Daniel who also has mild autism. Keep up the good work!! And I wish you all the desires of your heart. God Bless.

  5. Barbara Pons
    August 5, 2011 at 10:12 am

    My son just turned 11 and i was informed a couple of years ago that my son has trouble with male authority figures. I was also told that my sons teacher this year is going to be a male teacher. I am extremely nervous about it but they said the male teacher is awesome and that this would be beneficial for him. There are actually 2 male teachers in this class that kinda play like a Dr. Jeckly and Mr. Hyde. I have my fingers crossed for this to be the best year for him.

  6. Robyn Pullen
    August 5, 2011 at 11:11 am

    My son is starting a new school this year, a school for Autistic children. He is 13 years old (ADD, Autistic, Aspergers) and I hope the transistion is a smooth one for him. He is excited about doing school work on a Dell Duo Laptop..

  7. Chone
    August 7, 2011 at 7:19 am

    My son is 8 and well the bus ride is always a new adventure for him. He loves the bus. His teacher, bus driver, and classroom are the same as last year so really no worries there. My biggest worry is the shopping…. Uhhh shopping isn’t fun with him he is very picky about what he will wear so of course he has to go. I try to go early so there aren’t many distractions. I try to make it fun by asking him if I would look good in this or that. Of course he laughs (ahhh those beautiful sounds of laughter) at this but it get’s him in the mood to shop and we can normally pick out our clothes and shoes within a timely manner. I wish everyone much luck with the launch of another school year.

  8. Tyler'sMom
    August 19, 2011 at 10:17 am

    My 6yo son has PDD-NOS & ADHD. He started first grade this week. I think the best thing we did last school year was to build a good reporte with his speech therapist, special ed teacher, spec ed para, his teacher, and the principal. We communicate frequently about Tyler’s needs, what’s been helping, what hasn’t, medication changes, etc. The biggest thing is having picture charts of what to do when since Tyler is a visual learner (much like his mother ;) ).

    Also, he made some great friends in Kindergarten and the school made sure those he was closest with are in his class this year to help with the transition.

    He’s had a few meltdowns – screaming when things don’t go his way – but he’s been easily re-directed. Which is much better than last year laying on the floor and not getting up.

  9. anita white
    August 19, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    I am fairly new to this site my son is 9 yrs old and I just found out that he has high functioning Autism W/ ADHD. I am in the process of trying to get his IEP Changed from Interlectual disabilty to high functioning Autism..but of course it is a struggle. I enjoyed reading the bloggs, If there is anyone out there that has any ideas to help me or encourage me I would love to hear from you

    • Barbara Pons
      August 22, 2011 at 7:40 am

      I CT on the IEP’s it has a place to check of Autism. that is what his diagnose should be on his IEP. I will get him more services. Tell them that is what you want. You want the one that gives you more services. My son is also High functioning with ADHD. He is 11 and is in an awesome school that he is actually learning in. Although i am going to have a tough time getting him to go back because he is already refusing and saying he isn’t going back to school. The principal said if she has to that she will come and get him. Oh boy what i have to look forward to on the 30th. good luck!!!

  10. Marilyn Bosworth, SLP
    August 20, 2011 at 7:39 am

    I am the mother of an aspergers boy and a grandmother of two ASD children. I am passionate about children on the spectrum and their families. I work in a school that has three self contained units and asperger children fully included and partly included. We really have a wonderful school. I have worked in many different schools and they are all unique. The principal, in my mind, is the most important person in the school. In my huge county, principals really have a lot of power. They may direct you to the assistant principal or site coach or ESE liason but they are the final word. Building bridges is important. Years ago fearing the system, I brought my attorney to the IEP meeting. In retrospect, it was the wrong choice. I did this out of fear. In those days, aspergers was so new and I was desperate for help for my child. Now, after years of working with IEP teams, I recognize that most of the people on these teams, mean well. However, the parent is the child’s best advocate. You know your child best and it is your job to equip yourself with knowledge of the laws. I have seen parents go along with anything saying”You are the experts”. (I feel sick at my stomach when I hear that). I have heard and seen some things in and outside of meetings that where totally wrong. Dealing with school personel can be tricky. You do not want to cause your child harm by playing the wicked witch role. These are people and how you treat them can influence how your child is treated. With the new RTI (response to intervention) process, the inclusion kids can get more help in the general classroom. Our kids, when not progressing in class, can get tier three services every day, one on one.
    Do not let your child be overlooked because he/she has been labeled and gets OT, SLP services. Currently, the child can get these RTI services every year if needed. Check it out. Have a good year and parents, take care of yourselves too.

  11. s
    August 22, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    It is easier when they are younger with the school system. I have a now 13 year old boy going into 8th grade. Wow, 7-8 grade teachers are so aloof. They EXPECT your child to know how to be organized, able to open lockers, transition between 6 classes a day, thats 6 different teachers. The pressure/anxiety that he lives with is soo overwhelming. He comes home and just a mess. I feel that our school system is a mess.Ooh it burns my butt. I hate new school years.

    • Barbara Pons
      August 23, 2011 at 10:12 am

      I think you need to put something in writing that he needs help being organzied. They cant expect things from him. Put it in writing in his IEP everything that he needs help with. Good Luck!!

  12. laura
    November 17, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    it is not a comet, it is a problem i have. my son is almost 13 in public school, learning disabelity class, where he had a lot of problems from other kids, he is the only one with HFA,so when this school year began, he didn’t want to go back. i requested emergency IEP and got him a teacher, she comes to the house, intill evaluation is complited, when it is done, my son has to return to school, but he is refusing to hear that. what do i do, how can i make him go back?

    • Barbara P
      November 18, 2011 at 1:29 pm

      hopefully they will find an appropriate school for him. good luck

  1. August 4, 2011 at 9:43 am
  2. August 8, 2011 at 2:22 pm

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