Back to School Social Rules
By Alaina Urbantke
Three months of well-deserved rest and relaxation is par the course for busy students. But those days vanish like the summer wind, to make a Sinatra reference. In light of this, it is advisable to mix activities that exercise your child’s brain and body in the midst of lazy days. For parents of students with ASD, additional preparations must be made concerning social skills. This article will cover the essentials that will help your child maintain good social standing among teachers and peers.
Preparation begins before your child enters the classroom with personal hygiene. There is no need to elaborate on how it makes good impressions and fosters relationships. If your child has trouble remembering to brush his or her teeth, for example, you should begin “practicing” at least a month in advance. Use whatever amount of time beforehand so it becomes routine for him or her. Does the school have guidelines for dress, jewelry, hair, etc.? Review those, too. Shopping for appropriate clothes or cutting your son’s hair will be easier before rush hour starts.
Another thing to practice with your child is manners. Teach him or her to address teachers and other faculty members with “Yes ma’am” and “No ma’am” and “Yes sir” and “No sir.” Cultural differences among the States don’t matter, manners do. You never know what people your child may meet. Some are very strict with manners; others don’t care much. Semper paratus. Don’t forget making and maintaining eye contact. Finally, remind your child to smile.
The next pointer is literally outside the classroom: the hallways. First, no running. Collisions and spills won’t help anyone. Between classes, students are a flurry of feet as they try to reach their next class in time. Your child will be among them, and they’ll need to keep up. It’s very irritating when another person decides to take amble amidst the hustle.
Okay, your child is inside and is settled at his or her desk. How do you remain in good standing with the teachers? It’s not always easy, particularly if your child is eager and quite happy to begin the new school year. One of the most important things is raising your hand. (Yes, those italics were intentional.) Need a question answered? Raise your hand. Answering a question? Raise your hand. It goes farther than your child can imagine. If he or she accidentally interrupts, teach him or her to apologize and stop speaking unless the teacher allows it. Also consider that the teacher may not call your child, even with a hand raised. This can be a hard concept to understand, so be sure to help him or her understand that everyone participates in the classroom. Lastly, go over “inside voice” versus “outside voice.”
Fond memories with friends are a highlight of returning to school. Let new friendships be made and old ones kept. So what are appropriate topics of conversation? You can always ask what your friend(s) did during summer. The rest is contextual, so general advice is scarce. If there were assignments over the break, don’t talk about that. Same goes for family emergencies or tragedies. Moving on, yet another thing you could practice with your child is the flow of conversation. Teach him or her about listening. Most of us know universal topics others love are themselves. If he or she is capable, teach your child to ask questions about subjects his or her friends love. If not, focus on helping him or her learn when to interject. When someone stops speaking, it’s your turn. Lastly, talk to your child about personal space.
This is an unpleasant topic, but it must be discussed: cliques. Those with similar interests or anything shared will group together. Hopefully, your child will already have a few friends. If he or she doesn’t have any, encourage him or her. You may need to do some searching yourself depending on the situation. Finally, if he or she experiences bullying of any kind, remain calm and get details. The more information you can provide to the faculty, the more likely they are to listen and take appropriate action. It’s undoubtedly hard, but facts are the best way to fight back.
Some little details before I close, it’s wise to practice the locker combination with your child. Lockers can be surprisingly fickle, so make sure he or she has it down pat. This is very important if he or she has to visit it before another class. Also, be sure to inquire about PE class to go over the rules. If you can get the uniforms ahead of time, help him or her practice getting changed. Dressing in front of a crowd may be new and awkward. Rinse and repeat both as needed.
Schooling is an avenue to independence, whatever your child’s level of function. You always hear something like “Let’s start this year right” or something similar. I hesitate to use platitudes, so I will simply say that each child needs all the help available as school starts. Give the best boost you can.