Returning to School

When supporting a teenager with autism to go back to school after a period of refusal, illness or other circumstances, it may be advisable to:

  • Consider if the student could begin by attending for an hour a day. This could be gradually built upon. This option may be more beneficial than putting pressure on the teenager to attend for a whole day and finding it difficult to cope.
  • Identify coping strategies that can be used in school and discuss them with other staff and the teenagers parents. For example using “time out” cards or “stress scales”.

The teenager with autism may find it beneficial if he or she is given the opportunity to discuss his or her feelings at the end of each school day. A teacher or support assistant could go through the timetable with the student and discuss giving a mark out of ten for each lesson. For those lessons that score low, ask why.

It is important to take action early. Some of the following may help:

  • Encourage communication about the problem. Using visual supports may help or rating how different situations, classes or events at school make them feel on a scale ( thermometer).
  • Create a worry book or journal for the teenager to record anxiety during the school day. Alternatively, keeping positivity to the fore, concentrate on a Happiness Diary, Attwood, 2003. If appropriate, read the book together. You can then help them deal with any worries by suggesting how to cope with them in future. Teach the student an array of strategies, which he or she can use in a variety of areas.
  • Reward and praise any progress, such as completing something that they find difficult.
  • Provide structure at home by using visual supports.
  • Although difficult, try to work with them to help develop their social skills.
  • Help the teenager to understand the benefits of education.

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