Autism College Free Q & A with Visiting Professor Lindsey Biel M.A. OTR/L on September 5th

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jpg”>“Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum.”

  • Perhaps it seems obvious, but contact your school if you have not been informed of your teen’s  schedule or the name of the teacher(s), classroom(s), bell schedule, district and master schedule for the new school year. Sometimes, these are not known till the last minute and the school administrators are dealing with many issues – budget cuts, union and staffing concerns, etc. But, by asking politely and reminding them that you need to ‘prime’ your teen about where he needs to be, who he will see, what the schedule is for the first day of school, you can reasonably hope to get an answer.
  • Review your teen’s  IEP document to refresh your memory about what the goals are. If you have any questions as to how the IEP will be implemented, get a list going to communicate your questions to the person responsible.
  • If your teen is to receive aide support as stipulated by the IEP, it would be a good idea to contact the administrator to insure that an aide has been assigned. If specific training has been specified in the IEP,   ask  if the aide has been trained or when the training will take place.
  • If your teen receives related services at school such as occupational therapy and/ or speech therapy, make sure you are aware of when and where he is receiving the services and that it is in line with the IEP. If the services are provided outside of the school day, contact the non-public agency providing the service to ensure an appropriate time is scheduled for your teen.
  • This is a good time to ensure any records regarding your son and his educational needs are in order. Filing everything (IEPs, assessments, correspondence) in one 3-ring binder in chronological order is most helpful as it provides easy access when you need to find a particular document.
  • If your child is fully included, or has a new special education or resource teacher, it is helpful to provide the teacher with a one-page positive overview about your teen, and ensure that the teacher is aware of the IEP goals and objectives. Your teen may wish to write his own note to the teacher.
  • Self –advocacy is a skill that should be developed in every teenager. When situations come up in regards to information that needs to be shared with the teacher and classmates, or situations arise that need to be resolved, think of ways   your teen take part in that process, and bit by bit, to take more ownership of it, depending upon his/her ability level.

In my next column, some strategies to help general education teachers who have students on the spectrum included in their class will be shared.

Back to School : how to prepare your teen for a new school year

It’s that time of the year again – school is starting up again soon, along with our hopes and expectations for a positive learning experience for our teens. Some maybe returning to the same school; others may be moving from middle school up to high school, or changing from high school to a transition program; others may only be changing classrooms or teachers. Whatever the situation, any type of transition or change can be stressful for a teen on the spectrum. The start of a new school year can also be stressful for parents and teachers.

I first posted this article on the Examiner.com last August (2009), but it is still useful information so I am reposting now.

On August 15th,2009, I presented at the annual “Back to School”  Autism / Asperger conference in Pasadena and had the opportunity to refresh my memory on some good readiness skills for the start of the new school year. A2Z Educational Advocates based in Pacific Palisades had some good tips to share in a “Back to School Guide” they were handing out. Following are some tips from both the “Back to School Guide” and from my book Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum to help the transition go smoothly for your teen or student:

  • If  your student is moving to a new school or classroom, take photos or videos of the new environment, including the areas he/she will be walking through. If possible, take the teen to the new location before school starts and practice walking around the empty campus. Have him /her notice some visual landmarks he/she  will be able to see when the campus is full of students, and explain to him/her how to use these as points of references when walking from one place to another.
  • Prime your teen by talking to him/her  about the upcoming school year, the teacher and expectations, as well as any fears or concerns your teen has. Creating a photo album together or writing social stories can be very helpful. Even if your teen does not have good communication skills or is non-verbal, he/she can  learn to  understand and make the connection, so it is worth the effort to take the extra time to do this. Going over the appropriate behaviors and social interaction for the school environment can also be helpful. Many students find having a set of ‘rules’  for school behavior helpful. Focus on the positive!
  • Help your teen get organized to prepare for the school year.
  1. Use color-coded folders to organize the work for the different classes.
  2. Get a planner for your teen. Many schools have a homework planner, and your teen can use this to keep track of homework assignments. Show him/her  how to write his assignments in the planner and reinforce him/her  for doing so through out the school year.
  3. Designate a spot in your teen’s backpack for forms, notes and so on that come home from school, and make sure your teen and the school staff know where that is.
  4. If your teen is fully included in a school that follows block scheduling such as in some North San Diego County high schools (one day is periods 1,3,5; the next day is periods 2,4,6) you may wish to consider having two separate backpacks for the two different block days days.
  5. If your teen needs assistance to organize himself and stay organized (as mentioned above), his / her IEP may need to include accommodations, strategies, and goals related to learning these skills. Being able to get and stay organized is an important life skill everyone needs to learn

In my next column, tips on how to make the transition back to school easier for parents and teachers will be discussed.