Aside from hormone changes, your autistic tween is undergoing a lot of change when they enter middle school. Just think about it. They’ve had structure when they were in elementary school and are now expected to manage more on their own. So what can we, as parents of autistic children, do to best support them through this difficult time? It’s more than just organization and planning. It’s developing an effective planning system.
And, let’s face it, back to school planning is just as much as it is for us as it is for them.
How to Set Up an Effective Planning System for Your Autistic Tween or Teen
How to Set Up a Planner that Works for Your Autistic Tween
An effective planning system starts with an effective planner. For autistic tweens, or tweens who have executive functioning difficulties; you’ll want to use a thin paper planner that has spiral binding.
Try to look for one that has a weekly layout.
A monthly planner can be overwhelming and may not always have enough room to write down daily assignments.
This isn’t about flash and style, this is about function.
Planners that have pockets are also ideal for storing notes that are sent to and from school.
Size also matters so you’ll want to find one that can fit into the front pocket of your child’s backpack. Or inside the backpack in a secure area. Wherever the planner ends up being stored, it shouldn’t take more than two steps to retrieve it.
If you can, try to keep a pen or pencil in the spiral binding so your child isn’t then left searching for something to write with. Binder clips or tabs also help so they can easily reach the necessary page.
Before your child starts using the planner, go over the times of day that they’ll need to use the planner the most. Whether that’s at the beginning of end of each class or during lunch.
To mix it up, schedule in fun stuff as well as school stuff. This gets your child into the habit of always using their planner. And it hopefully avoids scheduling conflicts.
At least on their end.
If your child participates in school sports or extracurricular activities, you’ll want to put those in their planner as well.
Make the planner their own with stickers, Post-It notes, or color coding. Whatever your child needs to do to make this planner fun? Do that. You want to make planning a habit that becomes second nature.
Now that you have this planner set up, let’s talk about how to use it effectively at school.
How to Use this Planning System Effectively at School
Once you’ve found a system that works for your child, discuss this with your child’s teacher or teachers. See if they can take the time to double check the planner to make sure that assignments were written down correctly.
Even a little thing like the due date can become a huge issue with a child who has a tendency to forget.
On that same note, see if your child’s teacher or teachers, is willing to do a bag check before they leave the classroom. This ensures that your child still has their planner throughout the day.