Newswise — HOUSTON – (Aug. 18, 2017) – Students will soon make the often-tricky transition to a new school year, and among these students are those identified with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or other developmental/behavioral differences.
“Starting a new school year is an exciting time, it can also be a source of anxiety to both parents and children, particularly for families with children with ASD or ADHD,” said Anson Koshy, M.D., M.B.E., assistant professor and developmental pediatrician at McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 1 in 68 American children has an autism spectrum disorder.
“The sooner children with ASDs have access to evidence-based services and treatment, the more likely they are to progress,” said Koshy, medical director of the UT Physicians Center for Autism and Related Conditions, part of the Children’s Learning Institute at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.
Here are eight tips from Koshy to help reduce the stress on your child and family for a smoother transition back to school:
- Plan ahead. Communicate with the new teacher and/or school before classes begin. The more information the teacher has to support your child, the better. For example, let them know if your child is on a new medication, has been recently evaluated or if your child was recently diagnosed with autism, ADHD or another behavioral learning disorder.
- If your child is going to a new school or a new classroom, visit before the first school day and meet the teacher. This will be a quieter, less stressful time and less over-stimulating. Visit the school playground and take pictures of the school and the teacher your child is going to meet.
- Keep a calendar handy showing when school starts or other important events leading up to the start of school. Some children do better with warnings ahead of time. Parents are the experts on their child so it’s important to go with what has worked in the past
- If your child’s previous school year was successful, talk with the former teacher and learn your child’s strengths and challenges in class. Teachers will share useful strategies for working with your child’s new teacher.
- Stay positive and calm. Avoid last-minute school supply errands that can lead to anxiety for the entire family.
- The routine of school and homework can require adjustment when transitioning from a less structured summer break. Begin the transition to the school routine ahead of the official start date. Set boundaries on bedtime and access to screen time (video games, computer access and social media).
- Don’t compare one child’s behavior or progress to another. Each child is different and will progress in a different way.
- After school starts, prioritize extracurricular activities. If academic issues arise, an extracurricular activity may need to be limited. Having the discussion ahead of time can provide an incentive for a child to stay on top of their school work. If there is a problem completing homework during the week, your child may be over-scheduled.
“Teachers want every child to be successful and parents want to see their children reach their full potential,” Koshy said. “This is a process and change rarely occurs overnight. If the transition into the school year is a little tough for your family or child in the beginning, remind yourself of your child’s previous accomplishments. Talk with your child’s teacher for a better picture of what they are seeing in the classroom setting.”
During the first month of school, there is a shared excitement about a new beginning.
“When trying to assess if a child has symptoms of ADHD or if a prescribed ADHD medication is effective in a new academic year, it’s helpful to wait until after the first month of school to evaluate how your child is doing. This allows for the reality of routines and expectations to set in order to gain a more realistic measurement,” he said.
- Written by Wendy Cederberg