Back to school tips for Autistic children

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If your autistic child is anxious about returning to school after the long summer break, they are not alone. But Amaze’s Autism Connect helpline is here to help.

Autism Connect interviewed autistic woman Jackie Chanzi to get some tips on to help your child overcome the nerves and anxiety that can come with returning to school after many weeks out of the learning environment.

For more information and advice about this topic, and many others, you can call Autism Connect on 1300 308 699 or click on the link on this page for a webchat. Our friendly advisors are here to help in any way they can.

Tip 1 – communicate, communicate, communicate!

Talking to your child about their back-to-school concerns is vital but don’t forget to also chat about what they are looking forward to. Ask your child what they are worried or anxious about and what will help ease their concerns, particularly if they are teenagers and learning to take on more responsibility for themselves. It’s really important to let your child know that it’s about them and their needs, and that you and their teachers are here to help in any way during their transition back to the classroom.

Tip 2 – try on uniforms

Before going back to school, have your child try on their uniform (whether it’s a brand-new or not) to make sure any sensory issues can be addressed before the first day. This could be a family activity with all the children in the family dressing in their uniform and having breakfast together, replicating the start of a school day. You can then check with your child to make sure the uniform fits and is comfortable for them, avoiding any last-minute issues on the morning school starts when everyone will be very busy.

Tip 3 – visit school several times before the first day

Taking informal trips back to your child’s school a few times (if not every day) in the week before term 1 starts is a great way to refamiliarise your child with the school grounds. Use whichever transport method – walk, bike ride, car trip, public transport – you usually use and take the whole family. If you can, walk around inside the grounds, noting any changes from last year and asking your child to point out their favourite playground spots and classroom. Play on the playground or get everyone to use the slide or swings – make it a fun occasion! You could do this over the weekend before school starts so the memory is fresh for your child.

Tip 4 – develop a one-page student profile

Developing a one-page profile of your child for their teacher is a great way to introduce them and their needs to their new educator. The profile can be completed with or by your child and should include:

  • Things that make me more comfortable at school;
  • Things that I will need help with;
  • My strengths;
  • How the school and teacher can help me; and,
  • Things that stress me out.

If your child is in high school where it’s not as easy to talk to your child’s many teachers one-on-one, the document can be given to the year level coordinator, any teachers you have direct communication with and teachers you meet at parent-teacher interviews. 

Tip 5 – visit informally the day before school starts

Call the school and see if you can visit informally the day before term 1 starts. Keep it casual and ask the school if you can just drop in and have a walk around the grounds – this will prepare your child for going back to school and remembering where everything is so it won’t seem too strange the next day. Look for an opportunity to say hi to your child’s teacher or year level coordinator – you could give them a copy of their student profile at the same time. Just being able to see and meet the teacher, however briefly, may alleviate some anxiety about the next day.

Some more resources to help your child on their first day back at school:

About Jackie Chanzi

Jackie is a proudly autistic woman and mother of an autistic young adult. She has been an Autism Advisor for 3 years. She is especially interested in autistic identity and culture, autism and education, and autism and employment.


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