Back to School – ASD Style

The first few weeks back at school for children on the Autism Spectrum can often be a mixed bag of emotions.

Returning to the routine, often the desire to ‘fit in’ and make new friends, and teachers returning to school feeling more energised can be enough to make the first few weeks back at school less stressful than normal. The opposite can also be the case, with some children finding the return to the school routine challenging.

What ever the case for you, a good first couple of weeks back at school can certainly lay the groundwork for how the rest of the first term eventuates.

Here are a few strategies that worked for us.

1. In the first two or three weeks back, do not put too much emphasis on homework. Some children love to do it, others find homework very stressful. Be mindful that often our children are very tired at the end of the school day. In our experience we found that often children on the spectrum try very hard in those first few weeks to ‘do the right thing’. Almost as if they give 150% to try to fit in, make new friends or just ‘be like everybody else’, and that can be very exhausting. So if they look or complain about being tired, try not to add to that by adding homework in to the mix. A quick note in your child’s diary to their teacher explaining that, should suffice.

2. Resist the urge to pry to try and find out how your child’s day went. Instead, allow them to direct the conversation. Depending on the age of your ASD child, either you are going to hear everything about the day from the moment they stepped foot into the classroom… or you are going to wonder if school actually operated on that day! Give your child some space to debrief from the day and try open ended questions about how they feel.

3. Try to find ways in which your ASD child can spend sometime outside afterschool. If you have time, perhaps a visit to the park or a run along the beach, or even just to play in the backyard, perhaps bouncing on a trampoline is far more beneficial than allowing computer time. Spending as much time in nature as they can is very important for children on the spectrum. Having to sit still for six hours in a confined space with many others can be likened to a pressure cooker – so it is important to give your child the opportunity to ‘blow off some steam’.

Have you found other ways to help your child settle into the new school year?

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