We did it!!! We officially have a teenager on the autism spectrum successfully enrolled in High School. As an autism mom, I know that school transitions are tough, and I was particularly concerned about transitioning to High School.
What did we find helpful for transitioning to High School? Let me tell you know. Prepare, prepare, prepare.
- Summer School – we opted for summer school to help him transition into High School. The classes were smaller, limited time, and he was able to become comfortable with the new campus. Also, we got an idea of how the homework was going to increase dramatically.
- Walk the Class Schedule – the night before school we went and mapped out his route from class to class. We didn’t get to do all the classes because Student Council was there hanging posters which caused a meltdown (unexpected events!), but we got the first day started so he wouldn’t feel lost when his sensory overload kicked in.
- Meet the Teachers/AIDE – if you have an IEP or 504 plan you can request that your child meet their teachers BEFORE school starts. If your child will have support at school, again, request that you meet them before school starts so that your child is comfortable on the first day. Most teams understand that transitioning to High School is a big deal and will be supportive.
- Expect Anxiety – we prepared for anxiety and meltdowns the weeks leading up to school (my son stopped sleeping in his room). We gave hall passes and ease up on rules while he processes the change. The first day was extremely stressful for him and he came home and had an absolute blow out. Instead of me freaking out, we went to dinner and celebrated that he made it. The second day was smooth sailing.
- Buddy System – plan to carpool with a trusted friend so you can send your child with a buddy. Have siblings, ask your older child to be a tour guide for the first week of school to help ease anxiety. Some high schools have peer counselor groups – inquire if one would like to volunteer as your teenager’s personal support while transitioning to the new environment.
- Find Your Eyes and Ears – I’m in a mom of teenagers group because A. These woman are awesome and dear friends, and B. They tell me what they see and hear about my teenager that others wouldn’t notice or share. I’ve learned so much from these women and vice versa. Being involved and being a team is vital for a successful year.
I hope these tips help those of you transitioning to High School in the upcoming years. And if you’re already in High School and having a rough go of it, please take the steps to help your child feel more comfortable.
Books I’ve found helpful for Transitioning to High School:
Masterminds and Wingman: Helping Your Son Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World by Rosalind Wiseman
Queen Bees and Wannabes (aka Mean Girls) by Rosalind Wiseman
Overcoming School Anxiety
It’s So Much Work To Be Your Friend
Helpful Books for Parenting Teenagers:
The Conscious Parent
The Teenage Brain by Frances E. Jensen
Sensory Processing Challenges: Effective Clinical Work with Kids & Teens by Lindsey Biel
All of these books are extremely helpful. They are all neutral, so if you’re looking for a more faith based option, these are complimentary.