It’s August and the words “Back to School” ring loud in the ears of parents, students and educators. Schools, families, businesses and communities are hearing the rally cry and readying themselves for the inauguration of a new school year!! Some are celebrating the new start and others are bracing for a new year and the anxiety about the unknown.
As we busy ourselves with back to school shopping and a return to more routine in our daily lives, I think it is equally important to prepare emotionally and mentally as adults who love and/or work with students with autism. It is well documented that our mental attitude and our thoughts play a huge role in shaping our reality. I am not asking anyone to be ignorant of reality or “pie in the sky” thinkers. However, I am a firm believer in the power of expecting good things and positive relationships. We will find what we seek.
How do you prepare mentally?
Take some time to think about and even to write down your vision of what the school year will be like for your child and yourself as a parent. Create a detailed, positive mental picture of your relationship with the teacher, your child’s response to school and the success he or she is achieving. Imagine smiling faces, shaking hands, excited stories around the dinner table. Feed your mind with powerful positive images.
Record some goals that you feel are important for your child to achieve. Think about goals in terms of communication, social learning, self regulation and independence. This allows you, the parent to offer some valuable information to the school team in regards to your child. Think about what you feel that you need from the school personnel and be sure to record what specific actions you will take to facilitate the development of the goals that are agreed upon with the teacher.
Do your absolute best to avoid speaking negatively about the school, the teacher, and/or the past. This is critically important because your child will pick up on these “vibes” and his/her perception will be darkened even before the doors of school open. Kids are experts at instinctively knowing what fears, anxieties and opinions their parents feelâ¦even when words are not spoken. All students deserve a fresh start; an opportunity to improve, to be their best and to expect the best. It is our job as parents to nurture this “I can” attitude especially if your child has a disability.
Your child is beginning a new step; whether it is a grade change, new school or a new classroom. It is a perfect time to embrace his or her development and decide what activities you will look forward to your child doing independently this year. Maybe he will tie his shoes, prepare his lunch, or dress himself. Maybe she will graduate to brushing her own teeth, preparing her own breakfast or walking to the bus without a parent. Ordering her own food at a restaurant, opening her lunch bag, hanging her coat in the locker or using the washroom independently are all worthwhile goals. Opportunities like the ones mentioned encourage a child to grow, to develop their potential and to create their own positive self image.
Children need parents to give them opportunities to stretch their limits more than they need to be told how wonderful they are. Most of us aspire to have children that are self confident. Even children with severe disabilities are capable of developing a strong sense of self. As parents, we have the choice to give them wings or to clip their wings by doing everything for our children. I say, teach them how and let them fly!
The year promises to be a good one. You are ready to be open, respectful, and a team player. You are determined that you will maintain a positive attitude and continue to build relationships rather then allowing them to break down. Share your excitement, your plans and your positive expectations with your child. Allow yourself to shrug the heavy load of anxiety, fear and dreadâ¦.it will only make itself into a reality if you allow it.
Visit www.autismaspirations.com for more practical strategies!