It’s that time of year once again, every kid’s favorite: back to school! We hope everyone’s successfully readjusted to their school schedule and aren’t still stuck in summer mode. It can be a stressful time for parents as well, not knowing how their kids are going to be treated by the other students, their teacher, and the administration. Will they make friends? Will they have to sit alone in the cafeteria? Is getting them to do homework going to be a daily stress? My parents can attest to all those feelings, and I know personally just how scary the whole experience can be; the first day of school was my worst nightmare when I was younger. But it really doesn’t need to be. School can be a wonderful and fulfilling part of your life, a time you’ll look back on with nostalgia when the realities of adult life hit you.
I’d like to outline some general advice I have for the back to school period that can be beneficial for both the student and parents. This is assuming you’ll be in a general education classroom which, as I’ve previously discussed, is becoming more common for kids on the spectrum. First is to keep a constant line of communication between student, parent, and teacher. As someone who’s going into the teaching profession, I can’t understate the importance of this. Teachers have to balance the needs of an entire classroom, and it can be difficult to properly identify one student’s troubles if they don’t know what’s going on in that student’s mind. Not only is a good relationship with the teacher positive academically, but I’ve seen firsthand teachers who are willing to help integrate their special needs students with the rest of the class. New friendships are formed that never would have been otherwise.
Another important thing, and it’s one that in hindsight I’m glad my family forced on me, is to get involved. Boy/Girl Scouts, sports, clubs, any extracurricular activities. When I was much younger I did these things (reluctantly at first), and ended up making many of my friends through them. It also allowed my mom to form relationships with the other parents so they could set up play dates for all of us. Even for older students, it’s never a bad idea to stay active, learn some valuable life skills, and have fun instead of wasting away doing nothing like many high schoolers are prone to do. I know that for many with ASD, putting yourself out there in social situations can be a daunting task, but facing your fears and anxieties is the only way to overcome them. Building a rapport with your teacher and getting involved with the school are what I consider to be the most important methods of feeling comfortable in school from the very beginning of the year.