Sensory Kids: Getting Back to Normal

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The time we will be considered to be ‘back to normal’ oftentimes seems so far away.

But what resources are in place to help you transition your kids back into school after Coronavirus has passed for example?  Or back to normal after summer holidays?  Christmas break?  Especially your child with a sensory disorder?  There are things you can do to prepare.

For parents, like us, who have children on the autism spectrum, change is always a real issue.  Autism, anxiety and sensory overload are each a problem in itself and are typically found in combination.

ASD + SPD = transition trouble.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) + Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) = TT!

Getting our son into Kindergarten was extremely difficult in the first place.

Young boy and day walking down path away from house
First day of school 2019.  Submitted.

He is on the Autism spectrum and has Sensory Processing Disorder.  The means that we experience daily resistance, sporadic meltdowns, and watch him struggle to fit in.  There was a time when we even considered homeschooling him.  However, we worked hard, our support team worked hard, and he worked hard, to get on track.

Now just like that, all of that work, our schedule, timetable, the routine, his routine – all lost.  Whether it be COVID-19 or summer vacation, this occurs to so many families.  We are forced to backtrack and work to get back to normal all over again.

Part of our son’s sensory issue is transitioning, especially new transitions.  In a new school, a first-time classroom, all the different faces was an extremely overwhelming experience for him.  You can prepare your sensory child as much as you like, but you never truly know how it will all shake down when the time comes.

And boy was it shaky!

Isolation frustration for kids as we wait for ‘back to normal.’

After his first day of school, we all needed a break. It was a total failure.

We worked with the school, the teachers, the doctors, and formed a second plan.  I took time off from my job, as did my husband.  We took shifts sitting outside the school so our son would see us during his breaks.  He took noise-cancelling headphones for in-classroom use.  Eventually, he became more comfortable.  The lure of the structure was winning!  Less morning resistance, no nightmares, and crying, and even the meltdowns had stopped.

Young boy with backpack going to school
Submitted.

School changed him.  He became a very attentive student, he made sweet friends and he even got his school picture taken. (Something he generally disliked.)

Although he is happy to be home right now during COVID-19 (his safe space), he doesn’t understand why we are held up inside and not at the trampoline park, or somewhere fun.  He wonders why he can’t see or play with his friends.

We wish he could.

 

Face to Facetime during Coronavirus.

Already we are seeing the effects of a loss of his social interaction.  Now the worry has crept in, how are we going to get him back on track when it’s time?

Recently, another kindergarten Mom had a great idea to set up a Facebook page for all the kindergarten parents and kids.  It was nice to see our son interacting with friends again after a stretch of no contact.  Keep in mind, our littles sometimes don’t even think to ask.  Out of sight, out of mind.

The key is to not let that happen.

Suddenly, he’s interacting with his classmates, sending videos back and forth.  Even his teacher is a part of the group and he has very much enjoyed seeing her messages. As a parent, it’s heartwarming to see teachers wanting to stay in touch until things get back to normal.

For the foreseeable future, we will nurture these electronically connected friendships and hope we can keep him engaged with what it means to have friends and be at school.

“Home” work for everyone to get back to normal.

We do the work at home to prepare to get back to normal.  Each day, we give our son one school-related task.  Just one.  It could be a little bit of math, maybe reading a book or even a short spelling bee. Complete with stickers.

We were fortunate enough to talk to his Pediatrician by phone. We asked what we could do to help keep him engaged with school.

Here are a few tips:

  • Stay on a daily schedule, especially with sleep, because it’s so important.
  • Create a social story with pictures (Click here for an easy-to-understand guide).
  • Use websites provided by teachers (Careful with the screen time!).
  • Meet with school officials and transition team before the first day back.
  • Visit the playground at his school and get reacquainted with the surroundings.
  • Practice school morning routine role-playing.
  • Facetime, Zoom, Skype friends the week leading up to school.

Even though we feel like our stride was broken, at least we know he can do it! We’ll just have to work extra hard to make sure he succeeds when things revert back to normal.

Now from this experience, we know what to do on extended breaks like summer holidays or Christmas in the future too.

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