I have a 6-year-old who was recently diagnosed with autism and will be starting school again soon. Is there anything I should do to help him get ready so we have an easier start than last year?

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Lisa Friedman, Inclusive Educator, Religious School Director, writer & speaker

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Great question and wonderful that you are thinking proactively about your son's school experience. Not knowing him or your family personally, I have some general suggestions that may help to ease the transition and get the school year started on the right foot:

  1. Get used to the daily schedule now. Go to sleep, wake up and eat lunch at the times that your son will on a school day to help his body acclimate.
  2. If your son will be taking a bus, walk to the bus stop together and stand outside patiently for approximately ten minutes to help him get used to waiting each day. Speak to the transportation department and see if it is possible for your son to "tour" a bus. This will help him to practice getting on and off the bus smoothly and learn how to handle a seat belt.
  3. Tour the school. Walk through your son's routine with him (from bus to classroom, classroom to lunch, classroom to specials, classroom to bus, etc.). This can help to ease the anxiety he may feel during these transitions.
  4. Spend time in the classroom learning where various things are located. Help him to get comfortable with "his" desk, if he will have one. Don't forget things like locating the bathroom, water fountain, etc.
  5. Meet the teacher and other school staff. Help your son become as familiar with the people he will interact with on a daily basis.
  6. If you think he can articulate it and it won't increase his anxiety, ask your son what he is nervous about and make the effort to experience that aspect of his day in advance, if at all possible.
  7. Communicate your son's needs to the appropriate school staff in advance of school. This is more than just his academic needs. Be sure to include medical needs, social needs, etc. Also think about things like special events, fire drills and other programs and events that might not take place regularly.

Best of luck for a wonderful year!

Dr. Kristin M. Kosmerl, Dr. Kosmerl is a board certified behavior analyst- doctorate (BCBA-D) and PA licensed behavior specialist (LBS) who focuses on providing ABA services and advocates for inclusion.

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Hello! I get this question a lot from clients. The start of a new school year is difficult for all, children, parents and even teachers. • Have child start going to bed at set bedtime, which will be the school bed time; explain the bedtime • Go through the same bedtime routine the child will go through during the school year • Have child set their alarm for the time they will get up during normal school days (and yes, GASP) have them get up at that time • Go through normal morning routine for school days • No Naps! • Design picture/ word schedules for both bed and morning routines for school routine • Practice these routines for one to two weeks leading up to school • Call the school and visit the new classroom if possible • Drive by the school, walk the outside of the grounds, play on playground • Have a picnic lunch outside on school grounds with the family a few days before the school year begins; talk about the new school year in a positive manner • Talk about the school, the mascot, the principal, different activities, etc • Remind child of the friends they will be seeing, the staff they enjoy, and different places within the building they like • Send a preferred object with child to school on the first day, which they can take with them other days as well, but the child can only get this object in school (send a note to the teacher that you are sending the object as a transitioning object to help make back to school transition smooth) • Ensure there is daily detailed communication between home and school- especially the first few weeks

Happy 2015-2016 school year! Dr. Kosmerl

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