When you are a parent with a child who has autism you rely a lot on the information that you can find in articles, books and television programs. However, most of this information is for young children with autism. There is really very little information and guides for parents dealing with the teen years. One of the challenges that you are going to face is transitioning your child from middle school to high school. This can be a very difficult transition to make as it involves a new building, new people and a lot more variables in your child’s learning environment.
The first step is to meet during your child’s 8th grade year with both the middle school IEP team and the high school special education team. This meeting will be focused on exchanging information and exploring what option you have. The goal for this meeting is to determine if the high school special education program will be able to provide your child with the learning environment that they need to be a successful student. If the high school is not set up to give your child the learning environment and guidance that they need then you will need to work with the high school team to figure out what changes need to be made or to determine if there is another high school in your school district that is better suited for your child.
Pre-Transition High School Visits
One of the things that you learn as a parent of a child with autism is that familiarity is the key to comfort and calmness. Since the transition to a brand new school is traumatic even for the average student, it is important to set up several pre-transition visit. The first visit is best done on a day that students are not at school. This will give your child the chance to be introduced to the building when it is quiet and calm.
This is a good visit to explore the room(s) that your child will be working in, to introduce them to their teachers and aids and to show them where important features of the school are, like the restrooms and the cafeteria. To make this visit easier to deal with your child’s aid or middle school teacher should accompany your child on this tour. Having comfort items at the new school will also make things go a lot smoother.
The subsequent visits should be done when the building is active with students. This will help prepare your child for what the school will be like on the first day they attend their new school. Keep the visits short and as controlled as possible. Give your child the option of requesting to leave or take a break. This will minimize emotional stress and prevent sensory overloads that can lead to outbursts.