Helping a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder through school

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Given the many challenges that are experienced by children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (also known as ASD), if you have a child with this diagnosis, you might be wondering how to tackle school. 

So how can you best prepare them for and support them through school?

Speak to your therapist:

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This should be your first point of call. Particularly for those who do not currently have a diagnosis for their child and are just wondering if they might be experiencing ASD, it is extremely important that you have them assessed and a correct diagnosis can be given. Once your therapist knows exactly what your child is experiencing, they can give guidance to the school on how best to support them. 

Telling your child and their teacher’s about the diagnosis:

It is important that your child has an understanding of what is going on for them. It may be better to tell them right away, or you may find it more suitable to wait until they get a little older and have a conversation then. Either way, this can be an important process in helping them to be prepared for some of the unique challenges ASD can pose to their school experience. 

This site: http://www.autismawareness.com.au/diagnosis/telling-people-about-a-diagnosis/ has some helpful information on talking to your children about their diagnosis. 

It is also important that the school and your child’s teachers are aware of your child’s diagnosis. Although you may be worried about “labelling” them, it can be far more problematic if the school are not aware. This is because without an understanding of the diagnosis, the teacher’s may feel that your child is just poorly mannered or misbehaving and might dismiss them rather than providing them the guidance they need. They are also not able to provide the valuable specialised support for children with ASD that can help your child succeed at school without being aware of their diagnosis. 

Preparing your child for school:

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  1. Help your child get used to the school and the things they are likely to do there. This can be done through pointing the school out when you drive past, walking past the school, visiting the school, buying their school supplies and getting them used to using them or even getting into a school-like regime at home. 
  2. Make sure you are organised. This means having everything ready for school, knowing about some of the teachers and what class your child will be in. Try and connect with the teachers before the school year starts if you can or at least meet with the principle. It can be helpful if there is a familiar face there for your child. 
  3. Have your therapist connect with the school and give guidance on the level of support required. You can also provide some tips for the teacher yourself such as telling them some of your child’s interests, what upsets them and what seems to calm them. Some helpful hints can be seen at: http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/autism_spectrum_disorder_starting_school.html
  4. Once they start school, give them a chance to settle when they get home each day. Also try not to pry, if they offer information about their school day ask questions and show interest but don’t interrogate them if they don’t seem to want to talk. 

What about high school?

Similar to primary school, for high school, you want to introduce your child to the school slowly over time. You can do this in the following ways:

  1. Find out exactly how high school will be different from primary school. This will be different for every school and could require some research on your part. 
  2. Talk your child through the differences to let them know what to expect. Reassure them that you will help them prepare for these changes. 
  3. Visit the school and try to look into some extracurricular activities; finding something that interests your child could help them transition easier. 
  4. Take photos of the school and help them do up a map.
  5. Try and work out if they will have any friends transitioning to the same school and set up a buddy they can go to if needed. 
  6. Talk to the school about what support services they can provide and give examples of what was provided at your child’s primary school if appropriate. 
  7. Above all, keep in mind that this will be a challenging time for your child so they may show some challenging behaviours. Try and have patience with this and accept that it will take them some time to settle in and this behaviour is simply them trying to adjust. 

For further information on ASD and adjusting to school, please see the links below. 

Resources:

 http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/autism_spectrum_disorder_starting_school.html

http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/autism_spectrum_disorder_transitions_teenagers.html

http://www.autism.org.uk/about/diagnosis/children/recently-diagnosed.aspx

My child has an old diagnosis of Asperger’s, what does this mean?

Source: verywell.com

You may have heard that as of May 2013, a new version of the manual used by professionals for the diagnosis of mental and developmental disorders (DSM) was brought out. With this new manual, the way we look at a few developmental disorders such as Asperger’s syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) changed. Instead of these disorders being recognised separately, they were combined under the umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This has caused some confusion for individuals who were diagnosed with one of these disorders and parents of children with these disorders. If this might be you, you’re probably wondering what this change means. Below we’ll discuss what this means for you and where to from here. 

Why did they change it?

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As even the experts in mental health and development do not know everything there is to know about these disorders, the DSM is an ever changing document that is updated when research reveals new information. The reason that this particular change was made was because they found that specialists were inconsistent in how they diagnosed PDD and Asperger’s Syndrome and where there is inconsistency there is the chance that people are being incorrectly diagnosed or missing out on a diagnosis when they should have been given one. There was also inequality in the support provided to people with these diagnoses; some would receive support easily, while others were denied support. It was found that Asperger’s and ASD shared a lot of symptoms but differed in terms of the severity of these symptoms, so it seemed appropriate to combine them under the one name and put them on a spectrum. 

Does that mean now it doesn’t exist?

No, just because they have made this change does not mean that you or your child no longer have a diagnosis. It also does not mean that all your difficulties were imagined or in your head. It simply means that these difficulties come under another name. Instead of Asperger’s Syndrome or PDD, they are all considered ASD and this encapsulates difficulties with social integration, communication and repetitive or unusual behaviours (head over to our other page on ASD [What is Autism Spectrum Disorder] for more information on ASD).  

What does this mean for me or my child with a diagnosis of Asperger’s?

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    1. Do we have to get rid of the name? No… Some people begin to define themselves by their diagnoses. So it’s understandable that being told you can no longer use this name can be difficult. So if you would prefer to hold on to this name you can. Your specialist can use both the name of Asperger’s Syndrome and ASD so that you can still gain the support offered for ASD while holding on to the diagnosis that you originally identified with. 
    2. Do we have to be re-diagnosed? No… For people with a well established, pre-existing diagnosis of PDD or Asperger’s Syndrome they can be given a diagnosis of ASD. It may be beneficial though to re-visit your specialist as depending on the severity rating of ASD, there may be a higher level of support required and offered. 
    3. What about the stigma? Some people may worry that people will see them or their child as less intelligent because of a diagnosis of ASD opposed to Asperger’s Syndrome. This is an incorrect belief though. Although ASD can involve developmental delays and this can impact academic ability, this is not a given. As ASD is a spectrum, children with the same diagnosis can differ greatly and may not experience all of the same symptoms. Like with any disorder, there is stigma attached and the best way to tackle this is by educating others about ASD (head on over to [addressing the stigma] for tips on how to do this). 
    4. So what does change? Other than the name, not much. You or your child should still be entitled to all of the support services you may be receiving already and for some people, having a diagnosis coming under ASD may actually open up more support services. 

 

 

For further information on Asperger’s syndrome and ASD please see the links below. 

Resources:

http://www.mghclaycenter.org/parenting-concerns/families/dsm-5-what-happened-to-aspergers/

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/03/letting-go-of-aspergers/357563/

http://www.tonyattwood.com.au/about-aspergers/what-is-aspergers

http://www.tonyattwood.com.au/about-aspergers/what-is-aspergers