It’s inevitable with age, but all children eventually transition from the carefree days of primary
school into secondary school. From this point on, they must put their nose to the books and,
largely, function academically without their parents assistance. If you’re facing this major
lifestyle change with your ASD child, you may be in for a rocky ride. Here are a few tips to help
you make the transition go smoothly.
Establish Routines Early in the Year
According to guidelines published by researchers at the University of North Carolina, the
structure of a learning institution is often challenging for students with autism. One of the biggest
problems is often a lack of ability to understand activities, schedules, and expected behaviors in
the classroom. However, many students on the autism spectrum thrive when they have a
predictable routine. Before your child begins school, talk with educators about the schedule.
Give him access to a written schedule and ensure he has plenty of notice if something is
expected to change, such as having a substitute teacher or an abbreviated day.
Inclusion Equals Success
Autism is a spectrum disorder — and it’s a wide spectrum. Many higher functioning ASD children
will benefit from an inclusion classroom setting. In the United States, some schools have taken
a proactive approach at providing inclusion and allowing ASD children to perform grade-level
work alongside their non-disabled peers. While this may not be the best approach for all
children on the spectrum, if your son or daughter does not have a co-occurring learning
disability, having the chance to attend classes with everyone else can be an effective treatment
method for autism.
Allow Your Child to Attend Their IEP Meetings
Your child has no doubt been provided with an independent education plan (IEP). Regardless of
what it’s referred to in your district, this is simply a plan of action that provides accommodations
for his or her disability. As your child transitions into secondary school, make sure he or she is
aware of the accommodations that he’s been given throughout primary school. This will put him
in a better position to take ownership of his strengths and weaknesses and give him an idea of
areas he must work on in higher grades. Keep in mind that colleges typically cannot include
parents in disability planning, so the sooner your child learns to navigate this aspect of his
disability, the better.
Provide a Safe Space Where They Can De-Stress
When most kids feel stressed, it’s pretty easy to shake it off. This is not so with children on the
spectrum. While they may have difficulty accessing a safe place or safe person at school, you
can help them decompress once they arrive home by making sure you have a clean and
comfortable spot they can call their own. Your autism-friendly home environment should include
soothing colors and minimal distractions. Keep his or her learning space separate and
organized, which will help them focus when it’s time to tackle homework. Also, let their
educators know what signs to look for that may indicate that he or she has had enough. Create
a plan of action in case your child becomes overstimulated/stress-out at school.
Consider Their Options
Not all children on the spectrum do well in a traditional learning environment, but this doesn’t
mean there aren’t options. According to RaisingChildren.Net.Au, technical and further education
programs, along with vocational education and training, are also an option for your teen. Talk to
school administrators to determine if this may be a more viable option than a traditional
Remember, routine, organization, and inclusion are three components to successful transition to
secondary school. It won’t always be easy, but given the right tools, your child can survive and
thrive despite his social and learning differences.
About the Author
Jasmine Dyoco loves crossword puzzles and audio books, learning (anything!) and
fencing. She works with Educatorlabs to curate scholastic information.
(Image via Pixabay)