Returning to school can be quite hectic for any child. It is normal for children to experience some anxiety, but for children with Autism the experience of anxiety is far more intense. They have the same worries and concerns as other children, however, when a child with Autism feels worried or concerned they may exhibit various self-stimulatory behaviors. These behaviors are known as stimming. They include visual stimulation, repetitive hand and finger movement, or other unusual body movements or repetitive behavior. In turn, the child may feel even more overwhelmed at the attention drawn from these behaviors.
There are several ways to help your child cope with their anxiety.
The use of relaxation techniques can be very beneficial:
Recently, relaxation techniques have been found to help calm students experiencing stress or emotional discomfort. This can benefit them in everyday life as well as with assignments and test-taking.
Find out what triggers your child’s feelings of apprehension:
Doing this can help identify proper solutions. Awareness of a trigger will allow you to address the situation and help your child overcome their fear. An example would be to encourage your child to participate in situations that provoke their tension and to then praise or reward the child for doing so.
Develop a Visual Schedule:
Autistic children often struggle with transitions between activities in daily life. They will likely struggle with changing classes and activities at school. This most commonly occurs when the child is moving from an activity that they enjoy to one that is less preferable.
A visual schedule can be very useful because they allow children to know what to expect, reducing any feelings of alarm. The schedule should include a picture of the activity, the time it occurs, and a positive symbol for the outcome. This can help them to adapt to their new routine.
Adopt the use of Social Stories:
They are a fantastic way to introduce a child to situations before they occur. You can create a simple story about walking to the library or cafeteria. Describe events that will likely occur in those situations. Hearing or reading the story beforehand can assist your child in coping when they find themselves in a similar situation. There are also many children’s books on the market that model situations through social stories.
Overall, preparation will play a huge part in ensuring that the return to school or the introduction to a new school is more pleasant for your child. Discuss any concerns you may have with your child’s teacher ahead of time. Learn about the daily school routine and to develop a similar routine ahead of time. Once you know the things that make your child anxious you can make a list of them. Offer plenty of opportunities to practice situations that bring about those triggers. With proper help and encouragement, children with Autism can successfully adapt.
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