"My greatest hope for my son with autism entering kindergarten is that he makes friends and is encouraged to be social while being safe."
The transition from summer back to school can be tough for everyone, especially families of individuals with autism. The daily routine established over the last 2 to 3 months is changing, and the time has come to go from camp back to the classroom. This month's Community Connections is dedicated to supporting families as they help their children pack up their backpacks and head back to school.
To help ease the stress and smooth the transition for you and your family, we have provided an array of tips and resources for everyone involved in the process, including students, parents, teachers and peers.
Expert Interview: Dr. Paula Kluth, PhD
Dr. Kluth is a consultant, teacher, author, advocate, and independent scholar who works with teachers and families to provide inclusive opportunities for students with disabilities to create more responsive and engaging school experiences for all learners. She is the co-author of nine books, including You're Going to Love This Kid!: Teaching Students with Autism in Inclusive Classrooms.
Click here to read an article from Dr. Kluth: Getting Ready for School: Transition Tips for Students with Autism.
Click here to read Dr. Kluth's responses to questions from families, including suggestions for parents to help with the transition.
Back to School Survey
The Autism Speaks Family Services team conducted a survey to help us better understand and support the challenges families face with the transition back to school.
More than 800 people responded to our online survey. 26% of the respondents had children between ages 2 and 6, 62% had children between 6 and 16, and the remainder had children over 16. Of our respondents, 58% had children in a public school inclusion environment, 23% in a public special day class, 12% in a private or special school, and 3.5% had their children home-schooled.
Some tips families recommended to help ease the back to school process included: touring the school building ahead of time, meeting the new teacher before the first day of school, and going on the bus route in advance.
The respondents shared insights into the greatest challenges they face as school begins. We reviewed the responses and all of the additional comments. The top issues reported were:
1. Your child's reaction to the transition
2. Educating teachers and staff about how to meet your child's educational needs
3. Bullying situations at school
4. Peer acceptance
5. Meeting curriculum needs for students with autism.
Tips from Dr. Peter Faustino, School Psychologist
Dr. Peter Faustino is President of the New York Association of School Psychologists, which serves children, their families, and the school community by promoting psychological well-being, excellence in education, and sensitivity to diversity through best practices in school psychology.
Click here for Dr. Faustino's Tips for Reducing the Stress Associated with Back to School.
Back to School Resources
We have provided some specific resources from the Autism Speaks School Community Tool Kit to help you navigate these issues:
For Students with Autism
Tips for the Younger Student
Tips for the Older Student
Strategies for Bullying
FAQ: Your Child's Rights
A Guide to Share with Bus Drivers
The FRIEND Program
How to be a Friend to Someone with Autism
For Teachers and School Personnel
10 Things Your Student with Autism Wishes You Knew
FAQ: Special Education Interventions
How to Improve Social Interactions
A special thanks to Pat Grayson-DeJong, M.Ed, Autism Education Consultant, for analyzing the survey response data.
Click here to search our Resource Guide in your local area for schools, after-school programs, community activities, social skills groups and more!