Starting School with Autism Spectrum Disorder
The first week of school is a great time to remind students and staffs about how challenging it is for classmates with Autism to transition, says this Wildwood resident and vice president of Autism Services for Life Skills.
School is starting this week and while most parents are helping their kids pick out their “back-to-school” outfit, some parents who have kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are helping them get through feeling frightened, confused, and stressed.
The first day of school is often difficult for children with an ASD, as it brings a change in routine, said Jeanne Marshall, a Wildwood resident and vice president of Autism Services for Life Skills.
"Meeting new people can be very challenging and students may feel anxious with sensory overload," she said.
Marshall oversees all operations of the TouchPoint Autism Services division, including all programming, training and clinical assessments and therapies conducted by the agency, which serves more than 3,000 individuals on the autism spectrum in 95 counties across Missouri. She has been affiliated with TouchPoint since 1987 when she began volunteering and working as a classroom assistant.
Good ideas also can come from within. Some Rockwood School District students recently presented a month-by-month new program called REACH about increasing student awareness and acceptance of ASDs to Rockwood board of directors.
Life Skills Offers Helpful Tips for School Communities about ASD
Children with ASD need routine, predictability, and a set schedule. After summer break, getting back into a school routine can be difficult for some children, said Marshall.
Ron Ekstrand, president and chief operating officers of Life Skills, offers tips for easing children with ASD back into school:
- Start slowly. Change is difficult for people with ASD. Try to gradually introduce as many new things as you can before the first day of school so that the child has a chance to become familiar and comfortable with them. Begin slowly by introducing school uniforms, lunch boxes, backpacks, and other supplies as the new school year launches so that he or she can become familiar with everything.
- Communicate with your child’s school team. As parents, make sure the administration and your child’s teacher know you want to be involved and that you will work with them as a partner in your child’s education process.
- Tour the school with your child. Make sure you go on a day that’s not too busy. Try to introduce your child to his or her future teacher so there is one less thing he or she has to worry about on the first day of school. Let your child become familiar with the hallways, the classroom, the playground, the lunchroom, and everywhere else they might visit on a daily basis.
- Every child with ASD is different, so it’s important to continue to provide your child with the support he or she needs. Life Skills offers training programs for parents and children, as well as workshops and community programs to help families living with people with autism.
Life Skills, a United Way agency, provides individualized services to people with developmental disabilities—including autism—to help them learn, live, work and participate in the community.
TouchPoint Autism Services, a division of Life Skills, is the oldest and largest provider of autism services in Missouri.