My son entered middle school this year. He’s so cool! It’s been a big transition, though. Some of the initial adjustments were extra tough because he deals with anxiety and autism. So those crowded, noisy hallways; constant transitions between classes; and overall newness were a challenge to deal with. But he managed. We managed. Through a lot of prayer, asking friends for ideas, brainstorming, and searching online for ideas, we came up with some solutions to the problems he was facing on a daily basis. They’ve become so helpful that we thought we’d share them with you. Not only would they benefit others with autism, but many teens would find these products handy.
Get these shoe laces. These no-tie shoelaces are the best!!! We didn’t even know these existed until a friend suggested we try them. My son was so stressed about tying his shoes for PE. He can tie them, just not tightly or quickly. Concerned that he’d be late for gym or that they’d fall off when he was running, this dilemma really caused him stress. With these shoelaces, you simple squeeze the circular tab a little and pull the strings tight. That’s it! The really cool thing is that this clever invention is used by professional triathaloners who need to change shoes quickly during races. I was sure to point that out to my son. It’s great when an object made for athletes helps those with special needs. He was so excited to have them that he made this video. It’s a work in progress, but he’s excited to share.
Buy a sturdy binder. The next thing that has really helped my son is having a handy binder. No more frequent trips to the locker in between classes! Having to navigate the crowded hallways and unlocking the locker every hour was another stresser. So we decided to eliminate the problem by having him carry everything he needs to and fro in a binder. We got one that zips shut so nothing spills out. It also has a file organizer on one side and a zipper pouch for supplies. He’s never been so organized in his life! Now he only visits his locker before and after school and at lunchtime. Just don’t buy a cheap binder like we did initially. It will fall apart. We finally found a sturdy one at Costco that lasted the whole school year.
Buy a lock that allows you to set your own combination. Fumbling with a lock can be such a confusing thing for someone who’s already trying to transition into a variety of new things all at once. We couldn’t avoid the combo lock on my son’s main locker, but we did opt for a simple lock like this one on his PE locker. Total lifesaver! No stress.
Structure the environment. In addition to providing these adaptive products, we structured things so my son could cope better. For the first two weeks he was so nervous that his stomach was really upset. He needed to be close to a bathroom. We worked it out with teachers that he could leave class as needed without asking permission to use the facilities. He and I also met between classes a few times. I would go directly to the counseling center; he’d meet me there. His peers never knew he was meeting his mom. We’d touch bases. I’d give him a protein drink because he’d leave home on an empty, upset stomach. We also met for lunch a few times. I kept in touch with teachers by email and worked closely with his counselor to keep him in school. I wanted my son to know that he could do it. We just had to break it down into manageable chunks, which we did.
Pray and text. These two things might sound funny together, but that’s what I did–and still do. I send my son off with a prayer each morning, and he takes his ipod to text me once or twice during the day. He needs to know through prayer that God is watching over him, and I love hearing from him during the day and knowing that he’s doing well. He’s my buddy, and I’m very proud of him. He has extra challenges because of autism, but it doesn’t define him.
Do you have a child with autism or special needs? What has helped them cope with school?