6 mins read

Autism and Adjusting to Pandemic Schooling

Like all kids these days, schooling looks quite different during these pandemic times.

We used to walk to the elementary school, and I’d pick up my child post-school either for autism-related appointments or after the after-school program. He had an aide back then. He did well in school, yet had many autism-related/behavioral issues.

The middle school was farther away, but we’d still walk once or twice a week. By eighth grade, he would occasionally walk home from school.

My child liked the “style” of upper school better because it has separate classes with periods. He liked to walk from one class to another. He partook in clubs during lunch. He again did well, and his behavior issues were few and far between. He only had an aide for his first two classes.

Then, came high school. By this time, my child wanted to exercise his right to some independence. No more aide and he wanted to walk to and from school by himself.

His grades remained steady. He got through his most challenging class to date, Spanish, and excelled in history classes. He especially liked his mid-day resource lab where he could complete some homework.

During his junior year, he was done with Spanish. He was doing well in both physics and an elective, photography. He was, again, getting an A in history.

For the most part, my child didn’t always begin a semester with strong grades. He needed some adjustment time, “Okay, I’m back at school now. No more vacation. I have to get serious now.”

And, he would. If a grade began sluggish, he always finished strong.

The start of 2020 was the beginning of his junior year, and he was following his pattern in one class. The rest were going well, but we had been getting a bit concerned about this class.

Then, it all changed.

The coronavirus and pandemic forced a change of schooling.

How did the pandemic change schooling for my child?

Well, the weekend before California imposed stay-at-home orders, my child was beginning his spring break. We were scheduled to go to our annual sojourn to MLB spring training in Arizona.

We canceled that trip (or, rather, MLB canceled their games).

We were remaining at home anyway. Then, my child’s school extended spring break by a week.

After that second week, online learning was scheduled to begin.

At this point, there was some chance that the students would eventually (possibly in mid-March) go back to a regular school routine.

After a week on online schooling, the district announced the students would not return until the fall.

Now, my child (and all students) are learning at home via online teaching.

How is it working out?

It is definitely a new challenge…for my child…and for us.

It took teachers and students a week to figure out how online learning during a global pandemic was going to work.

They all had to figure out some kinks… how students and teachers can use the various platforms offered, how to get the students in front of the computer at certain times during the day, and how to motivate them to do the work just like they were still at school.

My child, for example, was coming off two weeks of spring break. He had gotten used to staying up late and sleeping in. His dad was now working from home. My employment was suspended.

Our home was under stay-at-home orders. Life was weird.

And, none of us quite knew what online schooling was going to look like.

The first week was strange but my child did his best.

Then, he hit a bit of a snag, and had to make an adjustment.

What was the snag?

At some point, my child was looking at this new school learning as something…casual.

He decided he could get up late if he didn’t have a scheduled class. He decided he could get his work done “whenever.” He figured it was okay to procrastinate his way through this situation.

So, we had to make an adjustment.

In bed by a certain time, and out of bed in the morning by nine. Any schoolwork had to be completed before any game playing. And, he was not to play a game while on an online class.

We had to impose some rules.

I wasn’t crazy with the idea of the parents being the administrator of school rules. That wasn’t our job. And, during this stressful time, imposing rules on a seventeen-year-old has the potential to make a bad situation worse.

As usual, my child began a bit rocky, yet things have certainly smoothed out. He’s accepted the rules and understands they are for his benefit. For the peacefulness of us during this time.

Because, we have no choice but accept any new rules during this time. It should all be temporary. However, it has to be this way. There is simply no other choice.

To varying degrees, we are all in this strange and uncomfortable and unique circumstances together. Life will get back to some kind of normalcy at some point.

We will get through this. My child will get through this because, even though he has autism, he has been quite a trouper. He has adjusted and accepted this new status quo. He may even be doing better than a lot of individuals on the autism spectrum.

He likes going to school, he likes his independence, but has done an admirable job with this transition.

He is doing his best, and that is all we ask.

We are proud him. And, he’ll be okay.


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