Back-To-School Tips for Parents and Caregivers of Children with Autism
Parents and caregivers may have many concerns as students return to school amid the recent rise in COVID-19 cases. Although sudden disruptions in routine may occur this school year, preparing for the changes we can anticipate may help reduce stressors on students and caregivers. Here are a few considerations and general suggestions if your child will soon be entering a new school, have a new routine or is expected to follow new rules:
- Find out your school’s guidelines and expectations regarding COVID-19 health and safety measures for your child.
- Practice the health and safety expectations at home: hand washing, using hand sanitizer, mask wearing, or coughing/sneezing into the elbow. Mask wearing may present challenges for children with autism, such as sensitivities to fabrics, smells, or loops and ties, or the ability to put on and remove safely. Ask the school what accommodations can be made if your child is unable to wear a mask safely or for long durations.
- Start practicing expected changes in routines such as earlier bedtimes, morning dressing routines, eating lunch from a lunchbox and start small! Children with autism may need specific behavioral strategies like prompts, positive reinforcement, and lots of practice opportunities to learn new skills. Celebrate small successes that lead to the long-term goal.
- Use calendars and visual schedules that show school days, virtual learning days, or activities during each day to help your child learn new routines and know what to expect.
- If possible, arrange a virtual meeting with your child’s teachers to communicate your child’s strengths and difficulties and as an opportunity for your child to meet his teacher. If a meeting isn’t possible – send an email. Sharing information about your child can help teachers “get to know” your child ahead of time. Autism Speaks has prepared a form to share information about your child. Back to School Form
- Prepare for virtual learning – with the dramatic increase in COVID-19 in Louisiana recently, some classrooms may shift to virtual learning with short notice. If your child has an IEP/504 plan, contact administrators and teachers to find out what supports will be available should in-person schooling shift to virtual.
Even as we enter our second year of school during COVID-19, it’s important to keep in mind that we all—parents, teachers, and students— are still acclimating to life during a pandemic. The evolving and unpredictable landscape of COVID-19 is a stressor for most of us. The above suggestions involve a lot of time, effort and energy, remember to “put the oxygen mask on yourself first” and engage in self-care.
For more information about applied behavior analysis (ABA), visit www.touchstoneaba.com. To learn about Touchstone’s services, call 985-446-6833 or email firstname.lastname@example.org