By Dan Coulter
Your child’s success in the coming school year has a lot to do with his or her comfort zone. Some children have pretty flexible comfort zones.
Children with Asperger Syndrome tend to have difficulty adapting to new situations, and many really benefit from extra preparation and explanations.
Arranging a trip to school to meet a teacher and explore locations before classes start can help ensure a smooth first day. One of the big challenges for a parent is figuring out what a child with Asperger Syndrome is thinking. Many parents are surprised when they discover their assumptions about what their children are seeing and absorbing are wrong.
When you and your child arrive for your school visit, turn on your radar the moment you step from the car. Be aware of where your child’s eyes look and what’s attracting his attention. In addition to telling him information about the school, ask him about what he’s noticing and finds interesting.
Consider what your child might be noting as landmarks. If a colorful bulletin board draws her attention, you may need to make sure she understands that a bulletin board display can be temporary. Pointing out other features in the hallway can help her determine where she is and how to navigate to a class or cafeteria.
Meet the teacher in the classroom, if possible. Again, observe your child to see where his or her eyes go. Work with the teacher to help your child become familiar with the room and talk through what will happen during the school day – and when. This is a great time to share information with the teacher about your child. It’s best to focus on your child’s interests and strengths in his presence. If you also want to discuss his challenges and ways to deal with them, it might be best to do this where your child can’t hear you. If you’ve prepared a short briefing document about your child, you can leave it with the teacher.
When you return home, talk with your child about the visit. Ask questions to ensure he absorbed what you wanted him to know, but also to learn what else he picked up. It’s an opportunity to learn a little more about how your child absorbs and processes information.
My son, who has Asperger Syndrome, once said that parents need to understand about kids like him, “We’re not thinking more, we’re not thinking less, we’re thinking different. The best thing you can do for us is try to adapt to it.”
I’d add that adapting to the way your child thinks can give you insights on helping him adapt to the world. Stretching his comfort zone through understanding can help ensure it doesn’t get shattered along the way.
You can think of the “before school starts” visit as walking the runway and clearing away obstacles before your child takes this year’s first school solo flight. It’s a great way to expand your child’s comfort zone, as well as your own.
About the Author: Dan Coulter is the author of thirteen videos about Asperger Syndrome and autism, including, "Asperger Syndrome: Success in the Mainstream Classroom." All his videos are available as both DVDs and downloads. You can find more information and articles on his website at: www.coultervideo.com.
Copyright 2011 Dan Coulter Used By Permission All Rights Reserved