If you have a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who has been attending regular school then you are in for a challenging time as schools re-open in your state / district under the pandemic cloud. Education authorities in liaison with school boards and health departments are opening or preparing to open school gates with new rules and expectations, as well a possibility of an increase in cases of Covid – 19 due to the close proximity of students and teachers. With a host of uncertainties dogging at every step of the way and all of us stepping into unchartered territory, extra support and help to a child with Autism is required. In this blog, we are delving into how you as a parent / caregiver can prepare your child for a return to school.
Once you get a good idea of what your district has planned regarding school opening and protocol and potential challenges, you can formulate a plan to help get your child ready for school again. In our list, there are things that you do at home on your own and some that require the collaboration of school & district authorities.
If over the past year and more, you have had a relaxed schedule for your child and yourself, then following a daily fixed school day schedule needs to be revived. Help yourself, the child and the family establishing the routine so that the child gradually gets accustomed to it and is not a challenge when its time to head back to school.
Start practicing masking, physical distancing, and hygiene protocol so your child gets accustomed to it with time. The child needs to get familiar with routine & expected protocol slowly and gently. If the child is used to wearing a mask, your task is already easier. If they have been confined to the home and not use to wearing a mask, then start getting them familiar with the masks, beginning with 15 minutes and increasing the duration daily. It's imperative to ensure that child is comfortable and breathes easy wearing a mask. Then buy many of the same type and keep them handy.
The visual schedule created for your child pertaining to a school day needs to be in focus. You may also create one for masking + hygiene + physical distancing protocol that is placed at eye level in their bedroom etc.
Consult with professionals such as therapists / doctors etc on how to deal with your child’s concerns, questions or anxieties.
Prepare a contingency plan in case covid restrictions returns or the school is closed till further notice. Be ready to return to homeschooling or virtual education.
Be in close contact with all relevant authorities (school, education board, or district officials) to help and prepare your child, and their unique concerns & challenges. Constant communication and collaboration ensures all runs smoothly and your fears are kept to the bare minimum.
Create a video or social story (using words and images to explain a social situation) to help your child to adjust to the ‘new normal’. Turn to the internet for such stories or get creative and make your own.
As a parent / caregiver your work will increase as schools reopen to new & complex schedules and scenarios. Therefore it is important that stability, patience, presence of mind, and a sense of humor are present in large dollops to make the life of your child and you easier in the days to come.