Autumn Autism

Some of the most challenging times for ALL parents are 1) the end of the school year and 2) the beginning of the next school year. Is it really surprising, then, that children who are very used to routines, very anxious about new teachers, students and environments have a great deal of difficulty with the turmoil created each new September? (or late August here in the Sunshine State).

It’s Autumn Autism – the time of year when educational and social demands may sometimes exceed the developmental footing of an ASD child. Old, inaccurate or absent IEPs may frustrate teachers, administrators, children and parents. By the winter, many of these kinks will begin to work themselves out, but parents know that it will take their vigilance, determination and direction to get the school’s cooperation. Moving into spring, most families seem satisfied that their decisions have led to improvement for the children.

That being said, it is the time of year when theautismdoctor offers my two dollars worth of advice (inflation, plus I am a doctor):

  • Keep expectations low at first… the second week of school can even be more disruptive in states where the start of school precedes Labor Day. Remembering the challenges of previous years may make it a bit easier to demonstrate patience this time around.
  • It’s generally NOT the time to start new therapies or protocols, even if a product is called “Mr. Focus” and is guaranteed to help anxiety.
  • It’s generally NOT the time to decide to start new medications. Try to let the child settle in a bit longer to better assess the efficacy of any prescription medications that you and the doctor might be considering.
  • On the other hand, if the child seemed to improve on meds last year, and you gave your child a ‘drug holiday’ during the summer, it could be that you DO need to restart the medication.
  • If the child is very young and in preschool, therapies should be focused toward improving behaviors, socialization and transitioning over color-matching, reading or counting. Biomedical protocols should be continued during this time, even if they interfere with the educational expectations at this critical juncture in their autism disorder.
  • Sleep needs to happen – restart the melatonin as needed. This is a time when warm Epson salt baths can do some real good.
  • Mornings are very chaotic –  it’s nothing new. Try to remember what may have finally worked last year (checklists, calendars, social stories) and give that a try.
  • Cooties, cooties everywhere. Watch for head lice (head banging, scratching or a new head ‘tic’), pinworms (lots of bottom scratching), and EXPECT at least a couple of colds – and try NOT to treat URIs with antibiotics unless absolutely necessary. Also, in the last couple of weeks I have examined 3 patients who had parasitic infections that were possibly acquired on their summer trip.

Getting back to school blues – it takes it’s toll, but you may miss it when the kids move on.

As always, I invite suggestions from the peanut gallery. Feel free to reply with your wisdom and advice.

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One Response to “Autumn Autism”

  1. Ben's mom says:

    My almost 3 year old is in a preschool that runs smoothly into a summer program so we didn’t see any challenges crossing over from the school year into the summer months. Then during the last week of his summer program he was forced to stay home with mom and baby brother because he got sick. He went back to school this week and is in a now in a new classroom, with a new teacher (but he is familiar with her because she took over his class in the afternoons in the sumer) and Ben had all his friends with him in the new room. Since I he went back to school his sleeping schedule has been completely messed up. The day he went back to school he went to bed an hour later than usual and was up crying a few times in the night, needing mom or dad to stay in his bed with him. Nothing has changed in his diet or supplements, and he’s not sick anymore. After reading today’s post I realized that maybe it’s this change of a new classroom with a new teacher that has caused him to fight going to bed until after 10pm, waking up all throughout the night and up for good before dad’s alarm goes off at 6am, for the last 3 nights in a row, which is exactly how long he’s been adjusting to his new routine at school! Coincidence, I think not! I think your advice is priceless doc!

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