Back to School Transition

“Every year our son struggles with the transition from the summer routine to the school schedule,” commented a parent of a pre-teen diagnosed with autism. “He actually seems to like the more formal schedule of the school year, but the transition from one lifestyle to the other is filled with temper outbursts, poor sleeping habits, and stubborn refusal to follow directions in the mornings.” Other parents have expressed similar concerns about the difficulty in transitioning from summertime to school.

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STRATEGIES TO CONSIDER. Because of individual differences, it is difficult to come up with a “one-size-fits-all” strategy for building a smooth bridge between summer and the school year. But several basic strategies should be considered by parents, teachers, therapists, and others involved in the process.
ACKNOWLEDGE THE DIFFICULTY. The whole process can be less stressful if family members, teachers, and others accept the fact that transition and change are difficult for many individuals with autism. That doesn’t mean that we should ignore inappropriate and troublesome behavior, but it does mean that we can adopt an attitude of helping our friend on their journey rather than getting frustrated with their tantrums and stubbornness.
INTRODUCE CHANGE GRADUALLY. Several weeks before school starts, we can gradually begin introducing structure to the evening routine and to the morning routine. We can gradually begin waking our youngster up closer and closer to the time they will need to rise once school starts.
MAKE TRANSITION AN ADVENTURE. Purchase a calendar that can be used to keep track of the last weeks before school starts. Your youngster with autism can mark off each day in a countdown to school, and he can write down “back-to-school events” such as shopping for school supplies and Meet the Teacher night. Your family can have a “Last Day of Summer” party that includes swimming, carving a watermelon, churning ice cream, or other favorite summer activities.
So, if we recognize and accept that fact that resistance to change is a natural result of autism, we can take positive, pro-active steps to help our youngsters make a smooth transition from summer to school.

NOTE TO LISTENERS AND READERS: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At FAQautism.com we are committed to providing free, practical, everyday tips for making life better for people with autism. You can click on a button to send me an email with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solutions. Check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism. www.FAQautism.com

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