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Helping Aspergers Children Adjust to the School Environment

Many – if not most – Aspergers (high functioning autistic) kids have significant problems adjusting to the school environment. Although some begin to struggle as early as preschool, almost all will encounter some degree of difficulty by the upper elementary school grades. Here is how moms and dads can help:

1. As your youngster's advocate you have a never-ending job! There is always so much to teach and so much to do. Usually, the school year is stressful- not only for the kids with Aspergers, but their moms and dads as well. Remember, you have to make some effort to take care of your own needs, if you plan to have the time and energy to attend to the needs of others.

2. Establish "homework" routines by helping your youngster get into the habit of doing quiet activities at a specific time and place every day. This could be time for reviewing previously mastered skills, doing silent reading, journal writing, crossword puzzles and similar activities before school begins. Do be careful that this is not a time to have your youngster engage in his most preferred activities, as it is designed to set the stage for homework during the school year.

3. Recognize that the week prior to the start of school is an extremely busy time. You may be able to arrange for the team to meet for one hour and arrange for follow-up meetings at the beginning of the school year. The most helpful information will include simple suggestions to assist educators in reducing your youngster's anxiety. Educators do not need to become an "expert" on Aspergers before your youngster walks into their classroom. If a meeting is not going to be possible, prepare a one page synopsis about your youngster for the teacher. This may include:
  • Suggestions to reduce anxiety
  • Stress Triggers
  • Stress Signs
  • Strengths and interests and how the teacher can use them to orchestrate successful experiences
  • Challenges that may not be obvious

4. If your youngster will be attending a new school, see if it's is possible to visit the school several times over the summer. Perhaps your youngster can be provided with opportunities to become acquainted with some of the staff at school as well. The more familiar the child is with all aspects of the environment, the more comfortable she will be. If your youngster will be returning to the same school, you may not need as extensive an orientation. However, it may still be beneficial to meet her new teacher and to see the classroom. One parent indicated that she purchases the school yearbook to acquaint her youngster with the building, pictures and names of key school personnel, as well as information regarding available extracurricular activities.

5. If your school requires school uniforms, you may need to give your youngster time to get used to wearing the uniform. In some cases, it may be helpful to wash the uniform several times with fabric softener to lessen the "sensory" challenges. Plan to have your youngster wear his uniform for gradually longer periods of time, over the course of several days prior to the start of school. If your school doesn't have uniforms, it is still possible that "appropriate attire" for school may be different than what your youngster chooses to wear during the summer. Have your youngster practice wearing appropriate school attire before the first day of school. If your youngster will be attending a new school and you're not sure what children wear, it's a good idea to ask - so you can help your youngster learn to wear clothing that will be considered "ok" by peers.

6. Make friendly overtures with school personnel to set the stage for a collaborative relationship. When you stop by the school during the summer, consider bringing cookies for all staff working in the front office. Bet yet, when your youngster accompanies you, let your youngster practice the social skill of offering items to others. Remember, in general, school personnel are overworked and under-appreciated! From the very beginning, look for opportunities to show appreciation and support to all school personnel who go out of their way to help your youngster be successful. Some suggestions include:
  • donations of useful items for the classroom
  • gift certificates to stores
  • hosting teacher appreciation lunches or dinners
  • letters of support sent to their supervisor
  • occasional treats (homemade or bought)
  • paid attendance at conference
  • volunteering to help with various projects at school

7. Many children with Aspergers have difficulty adjusting to new routines. Therefore, in the weeks prior to the beginning of school it is helpful to gradually move into the schedule that is necessary during the school year. This might mean shifting bed time to the time your youngster will need to go to sleep during the school year. You may also focus on helping your youngster becomes accustomed to waking up earlier in the morning. For many kids, it is important that they also reestablish morning routines. This may reduce some of the "challenging mornings" many moms and dads report in getting their youngster ready for school.

8. Plan on using external motivational systems in order to be able to implement these changes. Children with Aspergers rarely see "our agenda" as necessary or important. This can often involve the use of activities/items we often give away freely (e.g., watching TV shows, playing favorite games, errand to favorite store, points/tokens exchangeable for something your youngster wants). Remember, the key to motivation is that the reinforcer must be powerful and immediate!

9. The development of all positive social relationships will be helpful for your youngster. Prior to the start of school, you will want to try and target one or two kids who will attend school with your youngster: Usually, successful social experiences are easiest to structure with one youngster at a time, rather than a group. Sometimes, moms and dads experience more success if they establish a relationship with the parent of a "tolerant" peer and enlist the support of the parent (and the student) in serving as a "peer buddy".

10. You will want to remain in close contact with school personnel to identify problems early on in the school year. In particular, you will want to monitor supports/problems in all unstructured situations, monitor your youngster's stress signals, monitor for teasing and bullying and communicate frequently about homework assignments.

Student Orientation—

Provide a walk-through of the Aspergers child's daily schedule. In schools where the schedule changes from day to day, the child should have the opportunity to practice all possible schedules. If applicable, student "buddies" should be available to walk through the schedule with the Aspergers child. The following are suggestions for the walk-through:
  1. Meet all educators and relevant school personnel.
  2. Obtain information about school routines and rules (e.g., lunch, going to the bathroom, before/after school, transportation).
  3. Practice route(s) from various classes to the bathroom, counselor's office, home base, etc.
  4. Practice routines such as finding homeroom from the bus stop, opening locker, going through the cafeteria line, etc.
  5. Practice use of transition to home base through role-play.
  6. Provide instruction on the procedure for seeking out the safe person and home base.
  7. Provide the child the pictures and names of all additional personnel, such as cafeteria workers, school nurse, etc.
  8. Provide the child with pictures and names of all educators in advance of orientation.
  9. Provide the child with pictures and names of student "buddies."
  10. Provide visual/written class schedule(s) for the child.
  11. Show the child where her assigned seat in each classroom will be.
  12. Videotape a walk-through school schedule for the child to review at home.   
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Anonymous said...

My mom keeps asking what's going on at school, if I'm going to audition for the play, why I didn't try out for band, what my friends are doing, and stuff that's really my business. It's annoying and sometimes it's like she doesn't trust me. How can I get her to stop?

Anonymous said...

Parenting Aspergers Children - Support Group
If you don't share or talk much with your parents, they might feel the need to ask you questions to find out about your day, etc. It might seem like they're prying into your business, but they're probably just trying to keep your relationship strong. In fact, parenting experts often tell parents to stay connected to their kids by asking about what's going on in their lives.

Some parents do this better than others, of course. (And, sadly, some parents do ask questions because they don't trust their kids — especially if their kids have been in trouble.) So start by trying to give your parents the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they're just trying to stay close because they love and care about you.

That doesn't make the questions any less annoying, though. If you're tired of so many questions about your day, turn the tables — ask your parents about their day and use it as a way to practice your good listening skills. Or beat them to it: Tell them about your day before they ask. If you offer more info, conversations with your parents won't seem so much like a round of 20 Questions!
13 hours ago · Like · 9 people

Anonymous said...

Rose Proffitt
As a parent I do this.. but I have found that we have made a game out of it. My son and I have a race to see who can talk about their day first... we are allowed to ask 5 questions only any other information has to be freely given. It helps to build trust and keep the communications open. I agree with the above post... give your parents the benefit of the doubt they are more likely wanting to stay up to date with what is in your life because they care about you rather than being nosey and distrustful
13 hours ago · Like · 2 people

Anonymous said...

Carla Jay Your mom loves you and just wants to know what is going on in your life. As a mom I ask my son questions just to find out what kind of day he had. I want to stay connected with him.
13 hours ago · Like · 2 people

Anonymous said...

Claire Hawkins Shes prob just worried, if u feel u can't chat to her write her a letter explaining how it's making u feel, maybe a play or band isn't your thing. Telling her some positive stuff u are doing, even a project ur enjoying or something will help her relax.
13 hours ago · Like · 1 person

Anonymous said...

Dawn James
As the parent of an aspie I can say I often "grill" my son to find out what happened during the day. If I dont ask he doesnt tell me anything, good or bad, until he either needs money because he won a spot on something or he has detention or got hurt due to bullying that went unchecked. In addition if I know what he is interested in currently I can look for other opportunities outside of school to engage in something that currently makes him happy or fulfilled. Its not prying for prying's sake. *hugs* its when mom and dad dont ask questions you should get worried.
13 hours ago · Like · 4 people

Anonymous said...

Aprille Gallardo-Perez As a mom of a 5 yr. old, I do the same thing. I do it, because I love my son and am extremely interested in what is going on in his life :)
13 hours ago · Like · 1 person

Anonymous said...

Mitze Thornhill I think she just wants to bond with you and try to make some sort of connection. I am truly interested in what my son is doing and what kinds of things he is interested in so I can make sure I provide opportunities for him to channel his talents. I don't think it's because there is no trust. Just genuine interest in how your day was. Try asking about her day and you may find a nice conversation of sharing.
13 hours ago · Like · 2 people

Anonymous said...

Faith Lee
I agree with the replies. I don't grill my kids to be mean, controlling or annoying, I love them, want to stay connected to them and don't want to royally piss them off by trying to push them into something they are not interested in. My son loves Jazz band, he's on drums, but when it came to drum line....he tried it, decided he didn't like it, but didn't tell me. So here I am trying to get him ready to go early so he can make the before school practice when he didn't need to be there. He finally told me after a month, but he was aggravated with me for that month for making him go. If he had informed me of this, I would have known and saved us both the aggravation. Communication with our children is much more than taking care of basic needs, but brings the connection between parent and child stronger. I only want to help my children do well and do better than I. I can't do that if I'm not able to have conversations with them. *sigh* I'm unaware of their likes or dislikes and end up buying them something they wouldn't like at all. But if I'm out and about, and someone tells me there's an art club in son's age group...or funky retro necklace that one of my daughters likes, that stuff if what they want & it brings me great joy to provide that for them, instead of a book he wouldn't read and a scarf she wouldn't wear. It works for small and big things this things, if we are able to communicate with each other :)
11 hours ago · Like · 1 person

Anonymous said...

Natasha Mcardle my parents did it to me and now im doing it to my son :) when you have a little family of your own one day , then you will understand :) and i say all of the above as well :)
11 hours ago · Like

Anonymous said...

Elaine Spence-Moi time the teachers went back to school to learn to live in your sons world..been there felt that i was a bad parent until we got a diag and noone ever mentioned aspies to us until he had a meltdown and we went to docs x keep fighting dont let them bring you downxx
26 minutes ago · Like · 2 people
Jan Greenman such a familiar story - can you recommend they read my book Life At The Edge and Beyond - can buy it on Amazon, Tesco websites. tells them what it's like for us as I have written it and my son Luke - who was expelled from school for his autism and his sister Abbi have made comments at the end of the chapters so you get the picture for the whole family. Much love x
22 minutes ago · Like · 1 person
Debbie Roenneburg Make sure the reqest for the FBA is in writing, remember if it isn't in writing your reqest didn't happen.
13 minutes ago · Like · 1 person
Sherri Caldwell We are having those issues, too -- 6th grade. It's like the first two weeks back was the honeymoon period, and now all the emails, phone calls, notes and pull me aside in the hall have begin. There is little coordinated effort to address my son's "invisible wheelchair" -- they just keep yanking it away :(. We had a horrible day Monday, although I should say yesterday was better. He still didn't want to get out of the car today.

Thanks for the book recommend -- I will check it out!
12 minutes ago · Like
Marlene Biggy one of my daughter's friends learned that acting out will get him out of the classroom.... he used hitting, fighting etc as a coping mechanism, because he knew it would get him out of a stressful situation for at least the rest of the day (possibly the week) By giving him the option to take a break (going to the nurse, guidance office, etc) he learned to curb the bad behavior once he knew he didn't have to act out to get out when he was feeling overwhelmed.
45 seconds ago · Like

Anonymous said...

Hi, all -

I live overseas & have a 7-year old Aspie who has been getting worse due to the lack of early intervention. We and the great small school did the best we could to keep him in school, but he simply could not cope - we were progressively pulling him out of classes and non-class time activities, but his stress level just increased. I started home schooling him a month ago as a result. His sensory dysfunctions became quite severe, so I got trained on how to do sensory therapy & have him on an intensive sensory diet. He needs a lot of intervention that simply cannot be provided here.

So we are planning to relocate to Houston and hopefully send him to Monarch, an amazing private school for kids with neurological differences. We plan to move to the Spring Branch school district, in the hopes he may be able to go to a public school (with a lot of support) in a few years, and because his little sister appears to have special needs as well.

I understand Spring Branch is the best district for special needs kids, but there are a lot of elementary and middle schools in the district - which are ones that are consistently best for special needs kids? Any information would be helpful, so we can know what specific area in the district to move to.

Unknown said...

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the Aspergers child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed –dentists in thornhillt

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

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