Anxiety is very common among children and teens on the autism spectrum. This may be because many people with autism struggle with social interactions, which can include eye contact, conversation, social cues, and body language. Social anxiety can present itself in a variety of ways, including avoiding social situations altogether, becoming shaky or sweaty during social situations, or having a racing heartbeat.
These fears can be reduced by taking small steps to familiarize your child with his or her new situation prior to the beginning of the school year. Below we share some tips that can help the school transition go smoother.
1.- Communicate with your Children.
Talk to your child frequently about what to expect in the upcoming year. It’s the simplest tip, and perhaps the most important one to help reduce your child’s anxiety.
2.- Create Habits.
Create a new morning routine and practice it prior to the start of the school year. Begin waking up your child a little earlier each morning so that he or she is acclimated to the new wake-up time way before that big first day. Do a few “run-throughs” near the end of summer vacation so your child knows what to expect in the time before leaving for school. If your child responds well to visual schedules, you might create one outlining everything from getting dressed to going on the bus.
3.- Visit the School.
Take a tour of the school. This can be arranged with the teacher or the case manager of your child study team. When you are on your tour, visit the main office, bathrooms, cafeteria, gym, library, playground, and any room your child may spend time in during the coming year. Take pictures on your tour and incorporate them into a social story afterward so that you and your child can review it during previous days (a social story is a book that a parent or caretaker creates to explain in written and/or pictorial detail what the child should expect for an upcoming event).
4.- Bring his favorite Toy.
If your child has sensory issues make sure he or she has a favorite sensory item available from the first day. For those children on the spectrum who struggle from sensory overload, certain objects can offer a great deal of comfort. Make sure your child will have at least one available at all times.
Last, but definitely not least, try to relax. All children can pick up on their parents’ anxiety. If you can keep yours in check, it will help your child stay calmer on that all-important first day and through the school year.
At World Stem Cell Clinic, we believe that that having an informed parent –in an effort to empower him and his family– is the only way to for us to deliver optimal healthcare. Visit our website to find out more about our services and let us be part of your journey. You are not alone!