To say that schools have changed a lot in the past year and a half is an understatement. And, as a result, our kids need to learn new rules and routines. For children on the autism spectrum (ASD) the return to school after COVID-19 presents many challenges, and many parents have questions about how to help them cope with social distancing, new environments, and ongoing change. How can you best support your child with autism going back to school after COVID-19?
Kids feel more comfortable when they know what to expect and how to act in new situations. That’s particularly true for children with autism. For this school year, many rules and routines are changing again – so start with a fact-finding mission.
Talk to your child’s school and teacher. What will be different this year? What will stay the same? What’s the plan for your child’s class schedule, and transition times like lunch, recess, and pick-up and drop-off?
Images and verbal reminders help your child with autism get used to new ideas.
Maybe this year, your child is returning to full in-person classes. Make your child a calendar and explain that they’ll get to go to school five days a week.
Add pictures to the explanation, like a photo of your child at the school playground, and one wearing headphones. Review the information regularly with your child.
Having a predictable routine at home can set your child up for success at school. For example, if your child with autism will be eating lunch at school this year, think about what he could get used to—like having a packed lunch.
Invite your child to help prepare his lunch the night before and put up a picture at home to remind him to put his lunch bag into his backpack each morning. When it’s time to eat, have him practice getting his lunch bag to eat, then repacking the empty containers and putting it all back into his backpack when he’s done.
Choices help kids feel in control, which is especially comforting for kids with autism.
When you’re building your child’s morning routine, you might ask whether she wants to get dressed first or brush her teeth. Each evening, have her pick out her clothes for the next day. Let her choose a toy to bring in the car for the ride to school.
Look for other opportunities in your child’s before- and after-school rituals, and while she’s at school.
If you feel you need help, you can always reach out to us.
American Advocacy Group is on the front lines every day, making positive change happen for people diagnosed with Autism, Down syndrome, and a range of diagnoses across the continuum. As a leading advocate for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, and the premier provider of the support and services people want and need, we understand the system and know how to take action in regard to your best interests.
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