Back to School Resources for Children with Autism: It Has Been Suggested That Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) Are Especially Vulnerable to Bullying. the Interactive Autism Network (IAN) Is Now Sharing Initial Results of a National Survey on the Bullying Experiences of Children on the Autism Spectrum

Article excerpt

The transition from summer back to school can be tough for everyone, especially families of individuals with autism. The daily routine established over the last two to three months is changing, and the time has come to go from camp back to the classroom. In this month's EP Magazine we are dedicated to supporting families as they help their children pack up their backpacks and head back to school.

Since we wanted to know some more about the families in our community the Autism Speaks Family Services team conducted a survey to help us better understand and support the challenges families face with the transition. More than 800 people responded to our online survey. Of the respondents, 26% had children between ages 2 and 6, 62% had children between 6 and 16, and the remainder had children over 16. Of our respondents, 58% had children in a public school inclusion environment, 23% in a public special day class, 12% in a private or special school, and 3.5% had their children home-schooled.

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SOME TIPS FAMILIES RECOMMENDED TO HELP EASE THE BACK TO SCHOOL PROCESS INCLUDED:

* Touring the school building ahead of time;

* Meeting the new teacher before the first day of school;

* And going on the bus route in advance.

The respondents shared insights into the greatest challenges they face as school begins. We reviewed the responses and all of the additional comments. The top issues reported were:

1. Your child's reaction to the transition

2. Educating teachers and staff about how to meet your child's educational needs

3. Bullying situations at school

4. Peer acceptance

5. Meeting curriculum needs for students with autism

To help ease the stress and smooth the transition for you and your family, we want to provide an array of tips and resources for everyone involved in the process, including students, parents, teachers and peers.

The first resource we have available at Autism Speaks for families and all members of the school community is the "School Community Tool Kit." The purpose of this kit is to provide helpful information about your students with autism, and tools and strategies to achieve positive interactions and increase learning for all members of the school community. It will provide valuable information for general education and administrative school staff, aides, office staff, bus drivers, nurses, custodians, classmates and family members who interact with students with autism.

The information that follows will be useful for staff training, new school employees, and problem solving throughout the school year. With help from respected experts in the field of autism and special education, and experienced parents, caregivers and teachers, we've included an introduction to autism and specific strategies for supporting your students.

While this tool kit is not intended to be a curriculum for special education, your special education and administration staff may find it helpful for information and resources to support students with autism in general education environments and involvement in the school community as a whole.

WHAT'S THE BEST WAY TO USE THIS TOOLKIT?

Sections of the kit are broken into modules, to be used in short units, such as at staff meetings or in-service. Examples, success stories, visual supports and links to additional training opportunities, websites, video clips and examples are also included, wherever possible.

Training with this tool kit should be as hands-on as possible: role-play, create examples, apply a technique to a current student's needs, discuss and compare.

Preparing your school community to support its students with autism begins with helping them get to know the student as a person first--with hopes and dreams, strengths and challenges and, most important, feelings--just like any other person. …

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