Thoughts of spring bring to mind different images, rains that replace snow, flowers, new shoots on trees, baby animals, etc. If you are a parent with a child living on the autism spectrum, Springtime brings other images as well. The school year is ending, if it has been a “good” year, you may be sad to see the end of the year. If it’s been a “bad” year, you’re happy you survived. But whether the school year has been “good” or “bad,” one thing is for sure, change will soon be upon you and your family. The end of this school year means that in a few months the next school year will begin. How do you prepare your teen for that? Helping your teen prepare for a new teacher and a new grade can be challenging, but some transitions are more difficult than others. The years that require moving to new schools seem to be the most overwhelming. The thought of going from elementary school to middle school, middle school to high school, and high school to college terrifies many parents. And those of us who have been through it know what it does to our children.
We have not yet transitioned from high school to college, but I clearly remember the transition from high school to high school. It was “relatively” smooth. Planning began in early eighth grade. We were lucky that the high school was right next to the high school, so during the last semester of 8th grade my son was able to “work” in the high school library as a helper during his free period. This allowed him to become familiar with the school, the people, and the routine. He also got used to entering the building. Having more voice in the classes he took in high school was another positive for him. She carefully studied the list of offerings and made her selections (actually, she figured out her plan for all four years, before her first day of ninth grade). There were some glitches. Some adjustments had to be made after classes started. But it was clearly a much smoother start than high school. Things that stand out and really help:
He had a case manager that he met at the end of eighth grade. Your case manager talked to you about your goals and the courses you would need to reach them.
He was familiar with the layout of the school. He had a place, the library, where he felt really comfortable.
Before classes started, we took her schedule and walked through the building, located all her classes, found her locker, and worked the combination.
We arrived at school early every day so that he could avoid the massive confusion in the lockers just before the bell rang.
Once school started, his case manager contacted him frequently to make sure things were going smoothly. This was your go-to person for questions / problems. This was not a long and complicated meeting, they usually spoke briefly in the hallways between classes.
The locker area was overcrowded, my son’s assigned locker was in the middle of a row and therefore he did not use his locker at school. But she was allowed two sets of books, one at home and the other in various classrooms, thus sparing her the need to go to her locker between classes.
Lunch was another problem with crowds and noise. Finding a relatively quiet place to eat was a priority, but not an impossible task. Lunchtime clubs have allowed peer interaction, but in a less crowded forum.
No two teens are the same, and what works well for one may not work for another, but we have found that by collecting ideas that have worked for others, we come up with ideas that we have not thought of and some of these ideas result in having much success. These are some of the things that have worked well for us and we hope we have given you an idea or two that you hadn’t thought of before.