Summer can be a challenging time for many families, perhaps more so for families with autism. Significant disruptions to daily routines can be troublesome for children with autism, not to mention how overwhelming it can be for some children with autism to readjust to a new routine once again at the end of the summer. And while there may still be snow on the ground, this is precisely the time of year when you want to begin to plan how your child will spend several months of their summer break. One possible option is Extended School Year (ESY) services.
What is ESY?
A common misconception is that ESY is equivalent to summer school. While these services are most frequently provided over the summer, some children receive ESY services over winter or other prolonged breaks. ESY services are provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to children who have an IEP or to those who have a 504 Plan under the Americans with Disabilities Rehabilitation Act of 1973. They are intended to be highly personalized based on a given child’s IEP or 504 goals. Their purpose is to help your child maintain any progress they have made towards their IEP and 504 goals. In other words, ESY services are there to help your child so they do not forget the skills they learned during the prior school year.
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College can be a major part of adult life for some people on the autism spectrum, I know it was for me. At college, you have a lot more freedom to make choices that can directly impact your future. One of the things I enjoyed the most during my college years is that my special interests weren’t something that I had to keep to myself. I was able to explore my interests, write academic papers about them, and engage with others around our shared interest in the topic. It was a place where I felt free to be myself. However, that’s not to say that it wasn’t without its challenges. Here are some important things I learned during my time at college that I hope help other individuals who have either just started their journey or intend to begin school soon.
Join groups – Social relationships can be tricky for people with autism. However, college provides a great opportunity to make friends. In college, you can join special interest groups or even create your own. I have a special interest in Japanese history, holidays, and art forms. As a teenager, it was difficult to find people who wanted to talk about obscure topics like Takarazuka (a type of stage performance where women play all roles) and Tanabata (a star festival). However, in college I was able to connect with like-minded people. Through the relationships I forged, I was even able to travel internationally and participate in some of these activities.
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As we approach the end of summer, it is time to start thinking about how to transition back to a school routine. Consider the following strategies when getting your kiddos ready for the new school year:
Resume old routines – Your child’s routines, especially their sleeping routine, may have changed quite a bit over the last couple months. Returning to a school sleep schedule can take several weeks or longer, depending on the child, so it is often best to begin transitioning towards the end of summer so your child is well-rested and used to an earlier bedtime during the first week of school.
-Incrementally move back to the desired bedtime – try putting your child to bed and waking them up 10 minutes earlier than the night before for a few days. Repeat until you ultimately reach your goal bedtime.
-Establish a soothing routine – running around outside, playing video games, and watching action movies right before bed can make it difficult to fall asleep. Instead, try reading a book, working on a puzzle, coloring a picture, or doing other relaxing activities. This could also provide a good opportunity to reintroduce a homework routine.
-Minimize meltdowns – meltdowns can happen more frequently when changing routines, especially routines related to sleep. If your child seems more fatigued throughout the day, adding a short nap, or changing from a high-intensity activity to a less demanding one, may help your child get through the day without an extra meltdown.
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You did it, you made it through the conference! We hope you had an amazing time and left with new, practical strategies to support you in your everyday life. Now that you have all this new information and an arsenal of great ideas, you may now be struggling with how to even begin implementing it all. This is normal, don’t worry. The key is to take a short breather (very important, you deserve it), then dive in with the following five objectives:
Identify Key Takeaways
Hopefully you were able to attend all of the sessions you had hoped to. A lot of the information may have been new. While it is still fresh in your mind, write down a list of the top five most important things you learned at the conference. Maybe you learned that you can ask your child’s school to include a new type of goal on their IEP or perhaps you’re professional who learned about a technique you may wish to include in your practice – jot these new lessons down in one place so you can reflect upon them when needed.
Prioritize Your Goals
Out of all of the strategies you learned at the 2018 Milestones National Autism Conference, what should you use first? You may have a lot of different things that you wish to work on. For example, you may be a self-advocate who wants to get a date, a job, and to apply for certain benefits. How would you rank these in order of importance? Maybe you think a job is the most important to you right now so that you can afford to take a date out for coffee. Reflecting on your priorities and identifying one or two things to work on at a time can make things much more manageable.
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