It was the first week of school this week. With all the budget cuts, the expected disasters occurred. Busses did not show up, aides were not hired, and of course, kids were punished for just being who they are. I thought this comment from another mother of a child with an ASD summed up the mood pretty well:
- “… (he) is flapping so much we no longer need our ceiling fans to keep cool. However, when we ask him if he is okay … he just says, “Fine,” or scripts from “Kung Fu Panda.” His latest line was, “Whoever is making that flapping noise, please knock it off!”
Remember, any change increases anxiety in children with ASD (autism spectrum disorders). They show it by becoming more rigid, more perseverative, more repetitive, less social, and less verbal. They may regress to toys and games from earlier years. They may have more meltdowns or develop more phobias. They may just isolate themselves more.
To decrease anxiety, use visual supports like social stories to help prepare. Grab a video camera and make a video of walking into school, to the new room, the locker or cubby, the teacher, etc. Find out who is in his class and show him last year’s class picture. Point out who from that group will be with him. Practice with the new grade how to answer “what grade are you in”. Let him stim more than he usually does. Usually they get used to the new year within 2 weeks, and then it’s clear sailing. Sometime, like my son, they have a honeymoon period for a few weeks, and then all hell breaks loose for a few weeks. If anxiety keeps getting worse, or it never settles down to its baseline, then medication may be helpful. I will be writing more on medications in the future. For now, just try to get through the next few weeks.
Keep in mind, one of the biggest frustrations for these kids is writing. They usually need LOTS of good occupational therapy, and most schools will not provide it (at least here in Texas). Allowing them to dictate answers will help tremendously. Parents usually need to get it privately. While it is expensive in the long run, it is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child in the long run.
I found some interesting links this week. This one is my favorite about writing problems in those with ADHD. I’ve said this for years – I can spot the 3 year old who will have trouble in this area, and starting sensory based occupational therapy can be a huge gift for a child.
Here are some other links about OT helping kids on the spectrum:
Evidence-based review of interventions for autism used in or of relevance to OT. Case-Smith-J, Arbesman, M. (2008) AJOT 62: 416-429.
Efficacy of Sensory and Motor Interventions for Children with Autism. Baranek, G. T. (2002) J. Autism Dev. DIs. 32: 397-422.
Systematic Review of the Research Evidence Examining the Effectiveness of Interventions Using a Sensory Integrative Approach for Children. May-Benson, T.A., Koomar, J.A. (2010) AJOT 64:403-414.