When your kids become teenagers, one of the biggest things they need to learn is how to be independent. They WANT to be independent. It’s our job to help them learn to be both independent AND responsible.
The same goes for a kid on the Autism spectrum. The challenge for the parents is a bit tougher.
For my teen with Autism, I feel my job is to create opportunities for him to be independent and then put supports in place to help him be successful. Our calendar is one of our biggest tools.
This year, he’s joining the other middle school kids on the Ski Bus. This is a great social opportunity to be around the typical kids that he doesn’t usually see in his special education classes, take ski lessons to increase his confidence and have the other kids in school SEE him doing typical stuff.
For most kids, they sign up, hop on the bus and figure it out. For us, it took a lot more work but as I look ahead to our first day, I’m optimistic that we will be successful.
First step, instead of a typical ski lesson, I arranged for a private lesson. He’ll be more successful with one on one instruction so that’s what we’ll do.
Next, setting up a plan to establish the routine for getting from the bus to the rental center and ALL of the important steps involved in getting the ski gear and getting him to his lesson was key. I met with the director of the ski school. His team has a heads up that my son may need extra help. And I will be with him the first day to work out the bumps.
Finally, I’ve made arrangements at work to adjust my hours so I can help each week. It’s only 5 weeks. My son will do the routine on his own, but I’ll meet him AFTER his lesson. Unstructured time is tough for him. So the 2 hours of free ski time will be with me.
This is where the calendar comes in. For many kids with Autism, visual information is critical to communication and understanding. I can TELL my son about what is happening but I know from experience that if he doesn’t visually understand what I’m saying, comprehension will be low.
We’ve broken this endeavor into 2 routines: before school and after school.
Before school, he needs to get himself ready so he has everything he needs for the afternoon. We’ve talked about it. He’s seen the schedule but I know he’ll use the calendar on his phone as a checklist so he can get himself ready to go in the morning, independently.
Now for the afternoon routine. He’s got the breakdown of what will be happening. In addition to HIS routine, the picture below shows my work calendar, our family calendar that our babysitter uses AND my son’s calendar. This is to show that to support my son, it requires coordination across the entire family. It requires team work. 🙂
This schedule shows our first day on the mountain. This first day is about establishing the routine. For all the future weeks, my son will be on his own until free ski time. HIs calendar reflects that. And my work calendar shows my team that I’ll be leaving early on those days so they know what to expect from me and can plan around me (and better support what I’m doing).
So for any parents out there with kids on the spectrum who look at school activities like this and think it can’t be done, it can. A little organization, a few conversations with key folks and a solid plan captured in your calendar can go a long way.
Now let’s hit the slopes!