Normally, anticipating the beginning of the school year can create anxiety for both family members and for their sons/daughters on the autism spectrum. COVID-19 has only increased this anxiety and uncertainty. Your school district will be working through the summer to create a plan for re-entry that addresses both student and staff safety. Each county, district and even school may take a different approach that may continue to shift and evolve as the pandemic changes. Some may continue virtual education, some may do on-site education, and some may do a both.
Since March, most of you have been your child’s primary teacher. Some of your children may have done well and others may have struggled. Regardless, you have valuable information that can help as students re-enter this next phase of school and engage in the recovery process. Below are ideas for information that you might consider sharing with your school staff. This can help facilitate a smoother transition to fall and minimize even more lost time. Below are simply a few ideas.
• My son/daughters usual day at home involved (e.g., academics, playing outside, working on a computer, playing video games, doing crafts, etc.).
• My son/daughter exhibited the following strengths, gifts, and special interests. I want you to know the following about my son/daughter and their positive qualities.
• These are the struggles or difficulties we dealt with at home. This is what we found to be most/least helpful.
• These strategies worked best with my son/daughter (e.g., iPad reward time, taking breaks, focusing on interest areas, movement/physical activity).
• This is what we found to be least helpful (e.g., time out, working before breakfast, paperwork).
• Information that is important for you to know (e.g., changes in diet, eating habits, medications, toilet training, sensory issues, overall health).
• My child communicated in the following ways (e.g., communication device such as an IPAD, sign language, gestures, nothing worked). Discuss what would have been helpful.
• My son/daughter learned these new skills since March.
• My son/daughter lost these skills since March.
• My son/daughter received services from these professionals outside the school district (e.g., counselors, ABA providers, speech therapists, occupational therapists for fine motor or sensory, etc.).
• My child is most anxious/worried about (fill in the blank) when returning to school.
• My child’s comfort level with masks, type of mask (elastic band, those that tie, type of material), length of time my child is comfortable wearing a mask, my child’s overall understanding of social distancing and hand sanitizer preferences (or aversions).
• After spending this time with my son/daughter on the autism spectrum, my top three priority goals that I would like school to work on are:
• My top three concerns for my child upon reentry back into the school setting (e.g., understanding social distancing, health and safety, breaking the routine of staying at home, social emotional well-being, behaviors, and/or having lost academic skills).
• Additional thoughts.
Thank you to Indiana’s Autism Leaders, Indiana Resource Center for Autism (IRCA) staff and IN*Source for their input into this document.
Pratt, C. (2020). Heading back after covid-19: Information about my son/daughter on the autism spectrum. https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/irca/articles/heading-back-after-covid19.html.