Familiarity, Organization, and Patience: Helping an Autistic Child Cope with School Anxiety (Guest Post)

This guest post is kindly provided by Jenny Wise. Jenny is a homeschooling mom to four children, one of whom is autistic. She and her husband made the decision to home-educate when their oldest was four years old. During this journey, they have expanded their family and faced many challenges along the way, but they have experienced great rewards.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

New surroundings and routines can be very upsetting to a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). For many, going to school is a challenge that produces tremendous anxiety. The sounds, sights, and near-chaotic activity of a school day can be overwhelming. On top of the sensory stimuli, an autistic child may struggle with school activities and interactions with other students. It can be a difficult situation for you and your child, but there are techniques that can make the transition a little less bumpy.

Profile

Your child’s teacher plays an important role in helping her cope with the school day routine and a very busy environment. Prepare a profile of your child, including her strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes, and any special coping techniques that help her avoid feeling anxious or nervous. Meet with the teacher so you can review your child’s profile together and go over any questions the teacher may have. A teacher can be a great source of comfort for an autistic youngster; familiarizing him with your child’s condition will benefit everyone involved.

Benefits of CBD

A recent study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders supports the feasibility and effectiveness of CBD in treating children with ASD. CBD oil is often used to help people alleviate the effects of stress and anxiety and appears to hold considerable promise for autistic children as well. CBD also comes in gummy form, which can make it easier for kids to take. Parents of autistic children are turning to CBD to help their children cope with school anxiety, in light of the results parents with epileptic children have seen. Discuss this option with your child’s doctor or therapist, and research the many options available. 

Planning Ahead

Building familiarity can help a child with ASD acclimate to a new environment. Try walking or driving past the school so she gains a sense of location, and ask for a visit (preferably several) before she begins attending classes. The more familiar she is with the school’s layout — including where her classroom is and how to find the bathroom — the easier her transition will be.

Practice the Routine

Practicing your morning routine is another good way to help your child ease into school. Walk her through getting dressed (put school clothes in the same place every day), having breakfast, and walking (or driving) to school. If she’ll be taking lunch to school each day, make sure she knows where the lunchroom is, and if necessary, help familiarize her with eating out of a lunch box. Practicing can be especially helpful if your child has to wear a school uniform, which may feel uncomfortable to the touch. Consider looking for secondhand uniforms, which are already worn-in and feel softer. 

Be Organized

It’s very important to ensure your child is organized and ready for school to avoid meltdowns and having to look for items at the last minute. Kids with ASD don’t typically respond well when they feel disorganized and out of control, so have her backpack well fitted-out with each item in its proper place, right down to the pens and erasers (weighted backpacks can help induce calm in autistic school children). Pack her lunch every night and place it in the same spot. If necessary, draw up a visual plan of your child’s morning routine and use it until she’s comfortable with the schedule.

Ease the Transition at Home

Things may be a little tense at home during the first few days of school. Your child may come home feeling irritable, tired, and anxious. Give her an hour or so to wind down and get settled — allow her to separate for a while and establish her own after-school routine. Avoid asking questions, at least not until she’s had a chance to feel settled. Set a specific time to begin homework and be ready to help, especially with subjects in which she struggles (reach out to her teacher if you need help with homework).

Familiarity, organization, and patience are your best assets with an ASD child who’s anxious about going to school. Create a routine she can get accustomed to before she starts attending school, and practice it as many times as necessary. Organization will help head off episodes triggered by frustration. Stay in close contact with her teacher and school officials so everyone is aware of problems at school as they arise.

Would you like to support children with autism at school?

If you would be interested in a teaching or support position at a school or alternative provision, why not get in touch or register with Axcis today and find out how we can assist you? Alternatively, if you are seeking staff for your school or provision, or would like to refer a friend to us, pop us and email – we’d be happy to help!

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