When you child with autism enters high school, you may feel relief and a little anxiety. You may feel relief because how far he has come and anxiety because of the many social situations your child will face. This is completely normal of any parent as we all want our children to do well in different situations.
High school presents a variety of stimuli, such as crowded class changes, bell ringing, different teachers to adjust to, and many teachers and their teaching styles. If your child has an IEP, then he can receive assistance through many of these, but the social situations still remain. Your child will be interacting with many different students during the school day. But…what if you would like your child to branch out of his comfort zone and do a little more in terms of socialization to help him in the long run?
Finding a trusted mentor for your teen is easier than you think! For starters, reflect on the young adults or older teens you know that also know your teen very well. If none come to mind, think about your church family or any other organizational group you may be involved with. You can also look to youth groups in your community and get to know the youth leaders, find organizations within your community (such as YoungLife or 4H) that have many amazing young adult role models. Theses role models can spend time with your teen, and in doing so, help him with social skills, raise self-confidence, and help him in other areas that you suggest.
There is a variety of clubs in many high schools in many different areas of interest. Your teen may be a gifted artist and may do very well in the art club. Your teen may also enjoy the gaming club and getting together to play chess or other board games. Every high school has different clubs to meet the needs of its student population.
If for some reason, your child is not interested in clubs at school, your community may offer clubs before school or after school. Your church may offer clubs as well! Be sure your child is interested in his group and is able to go on his own terms. In order to create dialogue, ask your teen questions about what he did in club and other questions relating to his experience.
Teaching your teen the gift of giving can be done through various volunteer organizations in your community. The food pantry, community gardening, thrift stores, and other places often thrive using dependable volunteers. Showing your teen that he can make a difference will build his confidence!
Encouraging your teen to become more social can be easy. If he is encouraged in a way in which he is “helping” others, then it may not seem as overwhelming. For example, if a student in your teen’s class needs extra assistance with a concept, perhaps the teacher can enlist your teen to help! That is an ideal example of an impromptu, yet positive, social experience!