By Steven Vovk
Education Coordinator, Woodview Learning Centre
What’s New at Woodview Learning Centre?
It’s that time of year again. The schools are filling in, kids are excited to see their friends again, desks are being arranged, and visible learning goals are being created.
But that is not always the reality for those living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) – and other obstacles to learning and school success. For these children and their families, back to school can be a stressful time. Too often our system expects parents and kids to easily enter the stream without taking into consideration the need for integration, routine, sensory stimulation, or even just the sense of being overwhelmed.
Here are some helpful tips that will aid in this back to school transition:
- Remember that transitions are not always a one day or a one week journey. It can take upwards of a month. You want to increase your child’s exposure to expectations and learning (whatever form that learning takes) a little bit each hour, day, and week.
- School readiness is worked on in the summer months and continues throughout the year. Work with your teacher on their expectations in the class but also what a change in routine might look like and how to prepare for it. Our executive functioning abilities are key to human cognitive development at the learning levels. But often students with ASD struggle with adaptive reasoning and working memory. Working on school readiness for adapting to routines throughout the year can actually help in training the brain as well as the behaviours.
- Know your rights. Parents often feel at the mercy of the system or that they “don’t want to be a bother.” A parent can and should advocate for their child in a reasonable way until they feel their needs are being, or are in the direction of being, met. It is better to do this at the start of the year to show that you believe in accountability and transparency.
- Have a visual schedule of the school day at home so your child can review it and become accustomed.
- Prepare a handout or booklet of all your child’s needs whether they are academic, environmental, or social. Having this handy to give to the school can really support the teacher, instructor, or other staff in maximizing their work with your child.
- If your child rides the bus, introduce them to the bus driver. Include the bus driver, teacher, and as many people as possible in your community of support.
- If your child has transition items, having those along even for the first little while can be helpful and then if all parties involved feel that they are making positive gains, you can begin to reduce the use of it.
- Know what modifications and accommodations your child needs at school and try to mirror them at home when it comes to work. This will aid in reducing the stress of homework.
- Self-care is key. I know what you may be thinking; “How can I do self-care?” Utilizing services like Woodview and Autism Ontario for information on things like funding, grants, private services, and family services can aid the process in proactive self-care.
- Remember that learning is not cookie cutter. If a teacher says that your child is still struggling in a certain area, ask if they are at least struggling less, because if it is less, that means there is learning and growth. Always keep your eye on the horizon, on the destination; it makes the storms easier to navigate.
Each new school year is a brand new start; a fresh opportunity to learn and grow and to maximize each child’s potential.