Autism and Back to School

Autism and Back to School

My child with autism is a senior in high school and he is back to school.

In the past, this meant fun senior activities, graduation photographs, a prom, and the usual graduation ceremony. All of those things for the seniors of 2020 didn’t happen due to the coronavirus.

What’s happening for my child?

The first half of his senior year is at-home, online instruction only.

This decision was made by my son’s school district in July.

How do we feel about it?

Honestly, relieved. I do not feel that this country handled this pandemic well at all. Thus, we are at the end of the summer and still dealing with massive coronavirus outbreaks with significant COVID-related deaths. IMHO, if our country had handled this pandemic with real leadership, our kids would be back to school with some limitations, but, at least, they’d be there.

What does home instruction look like for my child?

Since this is our second go around, we’re more prepared for at-home, online instruction.

Our school district and my son’s high school in particular, made (IMHO) some really quality choice about how to education their high school students. (This opinion does not apply to middle school choices and/or elementary school choices. I only have a high schooler, so I don’t know about how at-home educating is for other grades.)

First, all of my son’s teachers teach on Zoom. That did not happen in the spring. The teachers were blind-sided and did the best they could. No judgement.

However, I am pleased that all five of my son’s teachers have scheduled Zoom sessions now.

Second, my son’s high school chose to have a block schedule. This means that classes for periods one, three, and five meet on one day, while classes for periods two, four, and six meet on opposite days.

The class periods are longer because there are only three classes per day.

Third, my son was very happy to learn that the first morning instruction doesn’t start until nine am (school usually begins at eight). He’s not a morning person and appreciates the extra hour.

Fourth, the communication throughout the spring and summer from the school and the school district to parents and students (IMHO) has been exceptional. If they didn’t quite know how they were going to handle a situation (or the entire situation), the parents were in the loop. We could also email an official or school representation with questions. Additionally, parents were surveyed about the school situation in the early summer. Some parents may not agree with this assessment, but I think the school district has done well considering the circumstances.

How does my child work at-home, online?

One of the things we learned from the spring was to be more organized.

First, our son had to reclaim his responsibility to be in front of his computer by nine am every morning for his first Zoom call. He always got himself to school on time. This is not different.

Second, he now has a small table and two other surfaces just for books, notebooks, writing utensils, and writing pads.

Third, we got a large white board. We organized it by each of his classes and the days of the week. Now, whenever my son gets an assignment, he writes it on the “big board.”

Fourth, we made sure Zoom worked on his computer and that he was “registered” with each teacher.

How is my son doing?

So far, he likes the arrangement. He’s been fairly good at getting himself to his first class, recording his assignments, and doing his assignments.

My son is a young man with autism, so this at-home arrangement is not all that problematic for him. He’s not a group-of-friends kid. He says he misses going to the school. But, this arrangement isn’t too bad for him.

I think it’s also better for him to be fidgety at home (he’s a fidgety kid). Obviously, he can’t really bother the entire class if he needs to fidget with something.

He has alarms set up on his phone so that he makes sure he doesn’t miss any Zoom call/class time.

He gets a weekly summary that he reviews to make sure he’s getting all of his work done.

Additionally, he likes all of his teachers and his classes. That always helps.

What are the negatives?

Yep, those extras hours in that chair in front of that computer.

That is a negative. Due to the circumstances, there’s not much we can do about it.

On cooler days, he goes outside to walk the dog or ride his scooter after he’s done with class. This is good because he’s not moving around as much. He no longer takes P.E. and he can’t even walk from class to class. We encourage him to get out of that chair from time to time!

Looking forward

My son will be educated like this for the first semester of his senior year. We’re crossing our fingers and hoping that he won’t have to do at-home instruction for the second half of his senior year.

He’d do it, if he has to. We hope he doesn’t have to.

One good thing is our son is definitely learning how to be flexible. Flexibility has not always been easy for him. We’ve all had to learn flexibility. It is a pandemic, after all.

Our son is doing his work and learning. He’s enjoying his classes and teachers.

For now, things are good with the at-home, online school.

We’re making the best of it.

Here’s an article about the challenges kids with autism face going back to school these days:

https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/health-family/school-return-to-prove-particularly-challenging-for-children-with-autism-1.4309936

 

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