Help Your Child Deal with School Stress

Therapies and Resources for Children with Autism & Families

Going back to school, or going to school for the first time, can be a major adjustment for a child on the autism spectrum. Attending school is a change in their routine and their environment, and puts children in social situations that may make them nervous or uncomfortable. You likely have concerns about how school will affect your child. First, you must identify if school is causing your child to be stressed or anxious. Some warning signs of stress and anxiety in children with autism include:

  • A noticeable withdrawal, or a preference for too much quiet time
  • Uncharacteristic aggression and acting out
  • A lack of energy or increased lethargy
  • Behavioral regression, such as the inability to perform a recently mastered skill or the return of a comfort behavior, such as thumb sucking
  • An uptick in repetitive behaviors
  • Unexplained outbursts of anger

If you notice these signs of stress, you can intervene to address them. While you certainly cannot change every aspect of your child’s school experience, you can help them handle and work through their stress or anxiety.

  1. Keep your routine at home. Stick to your child’s familiar home routine and ensure that it includes adequate sleep and regular family mealtimes.
  2. Provide exercise opportunities. Physical activity is a great source of stress-relief. Anxiety and stress can buildup in your child-and cause some of the warning signs referenced above-and exercise provides a much-needed release of that stress. Instead of going right to the computer or video games after school, encourage some outdoor play. That may include a walk to the local playground or a backyard game of tag.
  3. Always make time for fun. Carve out time for you and your child to enjoy a fun activity together, whether it is playing a game or going to a favorite place, like a local beach or park. Time for pure play-that is not related to school or therapy-is so important for children with autism.
  4. Don’t overschedule. Prioritize exercise, family time, and sleep before any extracurricular activities, particularly at the beginning of a new school routine.
  5. Advocate for your child. Perhaps there is one part of the school day in particular that causes your child stress; it could be a loud classmate that makes it difficult for your child to focus on his or her schoolwork. Maybe it is a difficulty to engage with classmates on the playground at recess. If you identify certain aspects of the school day that are causing your child stress, you can advocate on their behalf. Perhaps a teacher will aid your child in joining a playgroup during recess, or relocate your child’s seat in the classroom to allow him or her to better focus on their work.

The team at Peak Potential Therapy is here to be a caring, knowledgeable resource for you and your child. Call us for expert advice and guidance.