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School can be a source of stress for your child with ASD. While some children thrive with the routines of school, others struggle with peer interactions, staying on task, and handling sensory triggers.
Every classroom and school is different just like every child has different needs and strengths. Ideally, parents and schools can work together to find out what helps your child with ASD thrive in their school setting.
Identify what the triggers are
When a child is not coping in an environment such as a school, it is advisable to begin to “troubleshoot” the situation starting in one of these areas. For example, begin asking yourself – and others if necessary – questions like:
- Is my child being bullied or
- Has there been a change in the classroom, e.g., a familiar teacher has left and a new one has come, new students or
- Are the surroundings too loud or too bright, etc.?
Any of these types of changes and others like them can trigger inward instability and anxiety inside of a child with ASD. These factors coupled with a significant delay in expressive language development can result in a situation that the child feels they cannot resolve because they cannot express the problem, how it affects them emotionally nor can they engage in resolution. Yet, a child with ASD can be taught to do all these things; and, after determining the reason for the child’s problems at school, engage quickly in a process of resolution.
At first, you may have to advocate for them; but, eventually, even a child with ASD who is non-verbal can be taught to resolve conflict and express feelings with the use of various adaptive methods of communication and of self-regulation. Teach them. Train them. Learn the resources available to you as parents and caregivers to accomplish this instruction. Though they seem arduous at the moment, you and your child with ASD will appreciate your efforts in years to come!
Work with the school
School often presents challenges for ASD children so do not think you are alone. Take the time to work out what the trigger points are and address them one at a time. You cannot do this alone. Work with the class teacher, any support workers in the classroom, and any other therapists or specialists that you are working with.
Remember they don’t have to cope with everything all at once. The end goal is to get them settled into the routine of school, but this can take time and effort. Go easy on your child and yourself, and don’t forget to ask for help.
Open communication and routine are key
School can be an overwhelming and over-stimulating environment. For children with ASD, maintaining a calm and regulated environment is important. Your child may be dealing with multiple challenges which will need to be addressed.
Open communication with your child’s educators is vital and will lead to discussions about effective strategies in the learning environment. Adhering to a strict routine can help prevent anxiety.
It may be beneficial for your child to be placed within programs that are created especially for special needs learners.
Take advantage of the special services available for ASD students
School can be a big challenge for children diagnosed with an ASD. If your child is in public school, set up a meeting with the guidance counselor or the director of the special education department so that you can begin the process to get your child extra help. Most public schools in the United States will offer extra support services for children with emotional, cognitive, and behavior challenges. Some schools even offer opportunities for children to learn social interaction during supervised lunches with a guidance counselor and other children.
You may need to work with the special education department to create an IEP, Individualized Education Program, to give your child sensory breaks, test support, and homework relief. It may take a while to get the process started, but keeping regular contact with your child’s teachers, counselor, and principal will help things to go smoothly.