My son, Chris, just graduated from junior high school, in June. He was very excited to hear the words, “high school;” however, thus far, it has brought about anxiety and regression. To him, high school, may have meant new, fun times/friends. In reality, going to high school means one gives up the playground to begin to delve into acquiring the backbone of knowledge and responsibility to prepare for the adult world. The stress is evident as Chris has begun to repeatedly ask to go back to his Junior High class. He even gives me the room number (that I was unaware that he knew!) over and over again, in case I am not comprehending that he does not like his new class.
(Chris is currently at a non public school primarily for children with differing disabilities, including autism, that divides the campus based upon whether the child will be able to follow an academic path or a vocational career. Following an academic path would mean that one is able to pass all of the classes deemed necessary to graduate high school, including: English, mathematics, science, social studies, visual or performing arts, foreign language and physical education. Chris will be following a vocational path in hopes that he may one day be able to attain employment.)
With autism, regression and anxiety can result in more serious consequences than with some “typical” children. Chris, for instance, has trichotillomania, which is having a compulsive urge to pull out (and in some cases, eat) one’s own hair. Some of the common areas for hair to be pulled out are the scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows, legs, arms, hands, nose and pubic areas. Aside from having a noticeable hair loss, the person may suffer distress, and social or functional impairment. This condition is considered chronic OCD, but is difficult to treat. (Trichotillomania may be present in infants, but the peak age of onset age of this disorder is from ages 9 to 13, which is when it began affecting Chris. It is believed that depression or stress can be the onset of the disorder.)
I have just begun meeting with Christopher’s teacher, one-to-one aide and service providers (Speech, Adaptive PE, OT) in an effort to brainstorm on how to make this transition from Junior High to High School as stress-free as possible. Though I love seeing my son smile from joy and happiness, keeping him on a swing and on the childhood playground throughout his day is not a feasible option as he currently towers 3-4 inches over me, height-wise. Change is a part of life, and though this may be especially difficult for some children and/or adults on the autism spectrum (or otherwise) to comprehend, it is inevitable. It is especially necessary to teach our children and adults coping skills so they do not become self-injurious or defiant towards others.
If you have any tips on transitioning or coping skills, please feel free to comment!