Parents, autism group offer help on transitioning back to school

Parents, autism group offer help on transitioning back to school

PARDEEVILLE, Wis. - The first day of class for many Wisconsin schools is next Tuesday, and for kids on the autism spectrum getting back to a routine can be tough but there are some ways to make it a smooth transition.

Kitzi Muniz of Pardeeville has been getting her 12-year-old son Christian ready for school, counting down the days and going over every detail.

Muniz has been talking through the morning routine with her son, from waking up to brushing teeth to getting the backpack on. The details are important because Christian has moderate autism.

Christian began therapy in 2005. At one point he had 35 hours of therapy a week, but it has since decreased to 20 hours per week.

Muniz said reviewing a morning schedule teaches her son what to expect, bringing him comfort.

"If you do something that doesn't work with him his behaviors amp up, he could have a meltdown and the rest of the day could be really hairy," said Muniz.

Danielle Tolzmann is the president of Autism Society of South Central Wisconsin, an organization focused on education and support for families on the spectrum. She also has a child with autism.

"It can jarring. It can create a lot of anxiety and worry and sometimes that comes through as negative behavior," said Tolzmann.

She suggests parents try the following tips before school starts to help bring their student reassurance:

- Create a social story using pictures or words. Detail each of the steps of the morning routine from waking up to walking into the school building.
- Meet with teachers ahead of time before the first day.
- Visit school ahead of the first day. This helps prepare your student for any changes big or small.

For Muniz, these steps are important to her son's success but so is knowing his classmates understand him.

"He still has some of the same friends now that try to help him through his difficulties that means a lot to me too because all they want is to have friends too," said Muniz.

While these methods work for some families every family and child is unique. Tolzmann said it may be a matter of trying several different tools and finding out what works for your son or daughter.

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