Thursday, September 3, 2009

Are You Off to a Good Start with the School Year?

Here in the East Bay, most schools are in the second week of the new school year. It’s a stressful time, because everyone is dealing with a lot of change. This time of year can be especially difficult for kids with ASD’s like Asperger's or autism, or attention issues like ADHD or ADD. Routines are not yet established, teacher expectations are uncertain, and social issues are constantly changing. With all this going on, it really pays off to check in closely with your kids.

I worked with kids for years, both as a therapist and in the schools, and from this I know that the most proactive parents get the best results. It’s a hectic time of year, but a little extra effort now will pay off. In my experience, teachers and principals really are trying. But, budgets are tight, there may be misunderstandings, there are too many kids and not enough time. No one is as motivated to help your child as you are. Here are a few early check-in points.

1. Does Your Child Get the New Systems?

Homework, bringing home books, using the library, getting extra help, lunchtime routines. Every year the rules change a bit. It can be very confusing for any child. But, now is the time to make things clear. Maybe you can run through your child’s day and make sure there’s no confusion.

2. Are Friendships Starting Up?

I can’t stress enough that the beginning of the school year is when most kids shift friendships. It happens gradually, but the groundwork is being laid now. Help your child maneuver through these confusing changes. Just talking about it can help make things clear. Teachers can be a great resource when there are problems.

3. Monitor the Situation

Are there potential issues showing up early? Maybe you won’t want to do anything, but just pay attention to it. Or, if the problem is severe, catching it early can allow you to make a quick fix, like a classroom transfer that won’t be possible in a few months.
Of course, you shouldn’t be combative with the school, after all they are responsible for your child for hours every day. But that doesn’t mean you can’t track things carefully. Jot down private notes if you’re uneasy about a school situation. If things get worse, you’ve got some data, and if the problem goes away, no harm done. Too often, I see parents frustrated by months of difficulties, and only then do they start to document the details. An entire school year can be lost when that happens.
Pretty soon, things will settle into a routine and it's going to be a lot easier!