Helping an Aspergers Child Transition to a New School


We live in Ireland and my son who is 6 goes to a Gaelscoil (a school that teaches through the Irish Language). We speak mainly English at home. I was recently told that Jude's (my son) Irish is not up to standard and has been suggested that perhaps we should look into sending him to an English speaking school. My problem is that Jude is very happy in this school and I feel that such a major change to him would be very upsetting to him and also Jude knows the Irish but in his mind he doesn't speak Irish only English. Do you have any tips to either get my boy to use the Irish that he has in school or to make the transition to a new school easier for him? I would be grateful for any pointers you have.


Re: Irish is not up to standard…

Please watch the video entitled Aspergers Students: Tips for Teachers for tips on helping your son get up to speed with his Irish.

Re: Making the transition to a new school…

Here are some tips that can help your Aspergers son transition to a new school:

1. As his first day at the new school approaches, begin talking with your son about the upcoming changes. What are his expectations? Reassure him that other kids feel the same way when they change schools.

2. Ask the new school to assign a ‘buddy’ to assist your son during the first few days or weeks. This is something your son will benefit from – so talk with the guidance counselor and get it set-up.

3. Be patient. Expect your son to have a hard first six weeks or so (although he may adapt, make friends easily, and adjust fairly quickly).

4. Be prepared for very stormy weather for the first few days. You might find your son is withdrawn, more sensitive, not doing as well in school, being uncooperative, having tantrums or meltdowns, etc. This will pass as he settles in.

5. Be sure to introduce yourself to your son's teachers and share necessary contact information as well as information about Aspergers. Keep the lines of communication open throughout the year. This will send the message to your son that you and the teacher are a team and are willing to work out any kind of challenge that comes along.

6. Before his first day at the new school, find out what supplies are required. Most schools provide supply lists for each grade level. Stock up on necessary items.

7. Knowledge is the best tool to reduce anxiety, and if you can uncover the basis for your son’s concerns, you will be better prepared to address them. Whether your son is worried about making new friends, losing touch with old ones, or simply finding his locker on the first day of school, odds are you can help.

8. Each day, engage your son in conversations about the school day, activities, new friends, and upcoming school events. Talking about new situations can help him work through anxieties and fears. Keep the lines of communication open.

9. Find out what your son is interested in and encourage involvement in one or two activities. Present the idea of extracurricular activities, clubs, or sports. Being involved in activities outside of the regular school schedule will help him meet more friends and feel connected to the new school.

10. Future friends are everywhere you look – find them! Sign your son up for nearby summer camps and classes, play at the school playground, and visit the local library. He may need help meeting these new friends – and he’ll feel less nervous starting a new school if he sees some familiar faces in the classroom.

11. Get involved with the school. If you’re able to volunteer in the classroom, you’ll get to know the teacher and your son’s classmates firsthand. Networking with other mothers/fathers can be a great way to meet other children, too.

12. Get your son to bed on time that first day. Begin the school sleep schedule a week or two before the first day so he will be used to it by the time school starts.

13. Help your son get into the habit of laying out what to wear before he gets to bed at night. This makes getting ready in the morning go quick and easy.

14. Include your son in the transitioning process. Attend the school orientation together and arrange for a tour. He may appreciate the opportunity to follow his schedule before his actual first day of school (e.g., walking from the bus stop …to his locker …to each class …back to his locker …then back to the bus stop). Also, be sure to point out the bathrooms, cafeteria and auditorium. Knowing where things are should alleviate some of your son’s fears.

15. Provide a healthy breakfast for your son that first morning. Make sure he is up and ready in time to sit down and eat a good breakfast, instead of grabbing something and running out the door.

16. Remind your son about other "firsts" he has experienced in his life and how well he handled them. For example, has your son ever started a new camp? Does your son remember his first day of kindergarten? Find opportunities to talk about successes he has experienced and the advantages of taking that first step (e.g., meeting a new friend or learning a new skill). This will build confidence and remind him that taking risks can pay off.

17. Seek the positive. Request the school handbook and scour the school’s website for fun facts, photographs, and lists of interesting classes, extracurricular activities and sports.

18. Stick to your routine. If rapid changes have left your son reeling, knowing what’s expected at home can provide a soothing anchor.

19. Make sure your son learns more about changing schools. Read a book on the topic or visit your local library and get reading!

20. If your son is still struggling and complaining after six months, that should be a cause for concern. In that case, talk to your son’s teacher and the school counselor, but remind yourself that the odds are he’ll adjust just fine – sooner or later.  

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