Phoenix, AZ

Tips for adjusting to school for students with autism

Victoria Nogales

PHOENIX, AZ - Children on the autism spectrum may struggle more than their peers with these changes caused by Covid-19. Payge B. Raetz, Ph.D., BCBA-D, director of teen and adult services at Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center, and Rachel Anderson, MA, BCBA, director of children's services, offer tips on easing the transition.

  • Establish a morning routine.

Think of the types of things that might help a person get focused and prepared for the day. Before class, you might play music during breakfast or do a stretching exercise or deep breathing. Establishing a consistent morning routine, no matter what your activity, is helpful.

  • Set up an environment where you can concentrate.

Your student needs frequent breaks throughout the day. Create a daily schedule you can easily see (maybe on the wall beside your desk or workstation). You may also wish to include the start and stop times of each session or class. To help prompt the end of breaks, consider using devices like Alexa or Google Home. For children who are visual learners, use pictures. Your student may find it helpful if you formulate suggested activities they can do on their break.

  • Make realistic goals.

Find out how long your child can remain focused, then gradually increase the time. The most important part of any good plan is to motivate, motivate, motivate. By rewarding individuals for remaining focused, you can ensure everyone's success.

  • Organize social interactions.

You could hand out pre-selected Lego sets to the kids and have them build one together. If you prefer, you can play video games. You can, however, let them go off plan if they decide on something else! The virtual call will help build friendships and assist when there is another known face on the call during school.

If older students are involved in a class/school where they have a trusted friend, they can share phone numbers so they can text each other when they find themselves in difficult times.

  • Continually provide guidance.

Monitor your student's learning environment constantly throughout the school year to ensure they have a positive experience in the classroom.

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