DR. WALLACE: I’m 18 years old, and my 10-year-old sister has autism. She has always struggled to fit in and make friends, but I’m especially worried for her now that she’ll be starting middle school this fall.
I was bullied in middle school, and it was a horrible experience for me. I know how cruel kids can be at that age, and I’m someone who is very extroverted and outgoing, so if it was hard for me, I’m worried that my sister will get eaten alive.
I don’t want to be overly protective of her, and I know that there’s really nothing I can do because I won’t be able to monitor her all of the time, but as her older sibling I feel very responsible for her safety and well-being. She has already had a tough experience as a kid, and I really want her to be able to enjoy her early teenage years.
Is there anything I can do to facilitate her transition into middle school? — Concerned big sister, via email
CONCERNED BIG SISTER: Plan to visit her teachers in advance. Hopefully, one or both of your parents can attend and provide support in this regard. A lot will come down to the ability of your sister’s teachers to make suitable arrangements and adjustments as needed to help your sister have the best possible educational experience.
I’ve read that exposing such a student to a small group of interchangeable “buddies” can help deliver suitable social behavior in some cases.
Ask her teachers to help provide relaxation opportunities and spaces to do so. Your sister will benefit from routines, so seek to set as many of those up in advance as possible.
Do seek out the school’s counseling office, their administration and any on-staff professional who have had experience dealing with autistic children. Many students with autism have likely attended this middle school in the past, so seek them out late this summer or during the early part of fall, when preenrollment periods begin at this school.
I feel preparing the game plan in advance, seeking to acquire as much professional assistance as possible and also focusing on having safety valves like quiet areas that can be accessed as needed are the keys to helping an autistic student transition into a new school.
I’M HAVING THE ROOMMATE BLUES
DR. WALLACE: For the past few weeks, I have been trying to find a roommate for college. I have messaged many different guys through the class pages but have not gotten many responses back, and the responses I have gotten back make me think that I would not click well with the few who did respond.
I have the option of having a random roommate that the school picks for you, but I am worried that I could be stuck with someone I do not like if I go this route.
Should I keep trying to message people or let the school pick for me? — Need a suitable roomie, via email
NEED A SUITABLE ROOMIE: Start networking immediately! Do this in person to the greatest extent that you can. Yes, you can still use and monitor message boards, but talk to as many friends and family friends as you can as quickly as possible, starting today.
Often, you’ll find that someone in your circle of acquaintances will know of a good character student who needs to rent a room for college. You can also go to campus to speak to some students about this as well. Also, don’t forget counselors, teachers and administrators. Simply walk into an administrative office, smile, introduce yourself and explain exactly why you are there and what you are looking for. Have a few small paper notecards ready to pass out with your name and telephone number on them.
In today’s busy age, many young people default to doing almost everything online. Taking the time to pursue something important to you in person is not only a lost art but it’s a stealthy way to get what you’re seeking — especially when it comes to an important interpersonal matter like locating and securing a suitable roommate.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.