School readiness is a hot topic for all parents of kids heading to school for the first time. If you're parenting an Aspie though, it's an issue you need to address each and every year.
Not only do you need to prepare your child for the challenges of a new teacher, new classroom, new classmates and potentially a new school environment, you also need to educate and prepare a new teacher, or set of teachers!
Ideally the transition process began towards the end of last year, and you've already met your child's teacher/s for this year, and talked about your child's individual quirks. But if you've been away, busy, or whatever, there's still time to help everyone settle in quickly. For this list, I strongly believe - it's better late than not at all.
- Ring the school and make an appointment with your child's teacher for as soon as possible; preferably before the first day, but at least not later than the end of the first week at school. If available, ask to have the special education coordinator / integration aide / wellbeing officer / pastoral care person attend the meeting. And if it works for your family, involve the child as well, so they can talk directly and genuinely about their worries or preferences. This meeting should be the start of regular (at least once per term) student support group meetings, which you are entitled to if the school has been informed of the Aspergers diagnosis.
- Write or update a one page summary of your child's learning style, strengths, weaknesses and interests.
- Ask last year's teacher to email you a few pointers to share with future teachers. It always comes across better if the practical suggestions are from another teacher, and not just Mum or Dad!
- Ask to have your child's locker located at the end of the row, and on top if they are doubled up, so they have less sensory stresses when accessing their possessions - only one or two other kids to worry about, instead of two or four.
- Before all the kids are back and the place is overrun, take your child for a quiet walk around the school grounds, refreshing their memory of where everything is located, while you talk about strategies, or what to do, if your child gets upset, lost, or forgets what they should be doing.
- And don't forget to make friends with the admin person in your school's front office - they can become a great go-to person if all else fails, especially if they are forewarned about possible triggers and helpful actions if a meltdown does occur. For many kids the school librarian is also an important relationship to nuture.
There's plenty more advice available on this topic from a range of sources, such as:
Aspergers Vic (ASSN Vic) Information Kit has over 30 pages of articles on managing relationships and stresses at school. The book is included in the first year's membership fee. See the membership page for more. As we're able, we also add FAQ responses so that many people can benefit from the support we give our members
Sue Larkey's website has many tip sheets covering school and teaching issues.
Autism Spectrum Australia has a great article on Classroom Ideas for Children with Aspergers
My next book, The Hidden Diffability: Aspergers at School, due for release late 2013, will go into much more detail on this topic, and show how the 15 Australian case studies managed all aspects of school life.