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School Bells, Anxiety and ASD

Another summer is coming to an end! Despite the continued warm weather many schools are ringing their bells and opening their doors to begin a new school year.

first day of school

Has the first day of school arrived for your child yet? Your child may have already donned a new back-to-school outfit and hoisted his backpack onto his back to catch the morning school bus depending on where you live. Or, you and your child may still be preparing for the upcoming event. Hopefully, you are both feeling excited about it but what if that’s not the case?

Parents of children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who seek me out often share their dread for the first day of school. Most children on the autism spectrum thrive on routine and have difficulty welcoming change. Even though there is a routine that will be established for the school year, the transition to the new routine can fill a child with anxiety or stress.

Some parents of children with autism are constantly challenged with managing the worries of a child who functions best when routines stay the same. It’s not unusual for these children to be resistant or refuse to go to school because they are fearful of the unknowns involved when a routine shifts.

Recurring change is the enemy of most autistic children. Whether a child with autism is

– starting school for the first time,

– changing schools,

– or facing a new teacher,

making the shift to a new school schedule can be emotionally draining for all involved.

Even though a new school year is filled with uncertainty there are many things parents can do to ease their child’s worries and fears to make a smooth transition. Here’s one of many suggestions that will take some pressure off so your child can ease back into school.

If you’re not sure that your child is ready to attend school consider having a dress rehearsal. That’s right, a let’s pretend day where you go through all the motions possible of what the day will look like and how it will unfold. Practice is one of the best ways to prepare for any task, especially if one is not looking forward to it. It is a proven fact that the more one knows about something or can anticipate what might happen, the less anxious they will be. Taking the time to go through a practice run is a great way not only to decrease fears of the unknown but it’s also a great way to test clothing for any sensory issues that may be lurking behind the “seams”.

If you are looking for more back to school tips that will help you ease you and your child with autism into a smooth back to school routine or if you need help managing a bumpy beginning to a school year that has already started, I offer many strategies and school related tips in my new book that will help reduce your child’s anxiety about school.

All in all, knowing what you know about your child's unique traits, try to place yourself in her shoes. Authentically connecting with your child's perspective will always guide you to do what is best.

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