Image courtesy of Debra Wallace

Please welcome to Autism Mom the very talented Debra Wallace offering the wisdom of her experience in preparing for back-to-school for our kids on the Autism spectrum.

“An Autism Momma Lion Prepares for Back-to-School”

With summer bidding us farewell, and back-to-school just around the corner, there are lists of errands and details for most moms to tackle. But, for mothers of children with autism, and other special needs, this is just the beginning.

While all of us deal with the medical and dental forms, new clothes and shoes, school supplies, and new teachers and classes, my “to do list” has many more pages than this.

I am also starting to coordinate my 10-year-old son Adam’s litany of alphabet soup: OT, PT, TSS, speech therapy,autism support teacher, one-on-one, reading tutor, IEP meetings with an advocate…and all of this continues throughout the school year.

As the proud “momma lion” of a child with autism there are many aspects of my son’s life that can be greatly enhanced if I am prepared. My son does not like changes, or unexpected transitions, and I do my best to make sure there are few surprises.

A broken zipper on Adam’s new backpack, losing his favorite baseball hat, forgetting a favorite toy or DVD, or having to cancel a special outing can turn a happy day into one fraught with meltdowns.

My son does much better with schedules, predictability and planning,and that goes for people, places, snacks, and everything else in his life.

So as you head into the new school year, and all of the change that comes with it, I would recommend a few tips that have helped me during the past 10 years with my delightful, and gregarious son, and our often chaotic world:

  • Look for and use all of the support you can get. If the errands, phone calls and paperwork appear to be insurmountable and you have a close friend or family member who will help, don’t be shy about taking her up on their offer. It truly takes a village to raise any child, especially one with special needs.
  • Find ways for you and your son or daughter with autism to de-stress and make contact with others who are in the same boat as you are: look into special needs sports teams, sensory friendly movies, support groups and more.
  • Once you find a local group that can help I suggest that you get involved and be sure to stay involved. For five years, Adam and I have been going to events sponsored by the Autism Cares Foundation in Southampton, PA., in Suburban Philadelphia. This caring eight-year-old group holds social events, programs, and life skills opportunities for children and adults with autism and their family members.
  • Be your own benchmark – and do not go by your friend’s typical child of the same age or grade level. Figure out how your son or daughter is doing compared to last fall. Ask yourself: How has he progressed? What are his challenges? What can you, the school district and the community do to help make your child the best that he can be?
  • Enjoy everything, even the bittersweet moments. As my son climbs the stairs of his yellow bus on the first day of school, I know that I will wipe away a tear and shortly after, I will break into a smile. As he enters fourth grade I know there will be a roller coaster ride of adventures awaiting both us. So I will take a deep breath and forge ahead, with all the support, and will, I can muster, because that’s what mom’s of children with autism do. And, I would like to add, that we do it extremely well!

Debra Wallace is a professional speaker and entertainment/feature writer. Click here to follow Debra and Adam’s further adventures.

Image courtesy of Debra Wallace
Image courtesy of Debra Wallace


  1. Just this past Sept my now 3yr old boy was diagnosed with Autism. To me, he’s the same human I have loved so very much. But now he’s getting the help he needs he will be going on the bus and I’m so nervous for him. We have a bond like no other, so how can I stop thinking this will make him think I’m giving him away? He is so attached to me. Even at his meet and greet, he would not let me walk unless I picked him up to prove I wasn’t leaving.

  2. Here’s a tip I used with my ASD son. Before school was over I’d get a tentative schedule from his new teacher for the fall. Then, a couple weeks before school was to begin, I would begin scheduling his day in tune with the schedule he’d experience in his new classroom. Bed time and breakfast time would become the same times he would have during the school year. Lunch at home would mimic the same lunch time schedule as his school. On those years when change seemed particularly hard for him, we’d segment his day into periods the same length as he’d have at school. Much as I hated to interrupt his quiet play, when the timer went I’d make him change activities. We’d alternate less pleasant activities with ones he really enjoyed. Gradually he’d get accustomed to once again following someone else’s agenda rather than the freedom to choose that he’d enjoyed over the summer. Implementing this schedule during the last few weeks of summer holidays made his transition into the school routine much smoother. For him, for me and I’m sure, for his teachers.

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