Amy Kelly, National Director of Family Engagement, discussed her family’s experiences with Autism Spectrum Disorder and how it lead her to Devereux. Amy’s daughter, Annie, is enrolled in the Devereux school, Amy discussed her first-hand experience in preparing a child with ASD for life after she leaves the school system and beyond. We talked about programming at Devereux and the need for individual plans. She spoke of the problems facing all parents of children with special needs, finding services, keeping the child within the educational system until 21 and preparing for life after the family is gone, either as an individual or in a group setting, she discussed the support services Annie requires throughout the day.
She noted that many of the Devereux staff are family, they come for the programming and stay on, her daughter Annie, has an campus job. In her own position, she helps families navigate
Ms Kelly offered tips on preparing a child with special needs for the first day of school, advice that apply to any apprehensive child. She suggests getting the preparation started early with establishing a routine for sleep. Start the conversation started early, too – making it into a count-down each day and staying optimistic and upbeat about the coming school year. She suggested saying, in twenty days you’ll be back with your friends at school,’ then, ‘In 19 days days you’ll be with your friends at school.’ She recommended breaking down the task, getting dressed for school, walking to the bus, riding the bus, greeting the teacher, etc. Another suggestion was to create an ‘Advent’ calendar, something different each day counting down to the first day of school. She recommended getting the child involved with getting the clothes and supplies needed. Driving the bus route and visiting the classroom also cuts down the apprehension and fear. Once school has started, she recommends a system of sharing information with the teacher, either through scheduled calls, emails or notes, to track the child’s progress and in the class and at home.
Amy’s Back to School Tips for families with a special needs child – make it less stressful!
- Establish the sleep schedule, fifteen minutes at a time, slowly get back to the school year routine.
- Start counting down the days, enthusiastically!
- Position the event at the end of the countdown positively with things your child likes about school.
- Prepare – get the supplies purchased and ready, solicit the child’s help with this
- Get the clothes ready, and consider second pairs, swimsuits disappear and pants get dirty.
- Prepare a visual story, pictures and images of what the school day will look like
- Tour the school, visit the classroom and drive the bus route so that it becomes familiar
For more information visit DEVEREUX.org