Aug 2023
Autism Spectrum Disorder – Kids at School

Autism Spectrum Disorder -Yes, They Can!


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My son came home one day with a letter attached to a Christmas card he had received from one of his friends at school. It was written by the boys Mum. The friend had non-verbal autism and struggled in the class. The letter said a huge thank you to my boy for spending time with Joshua and reading with him quietly without fanfare and without being asked at the back of the classroom. The letter finished with the mum  saying that my son made “Josh’s days at school so much better “. I don’t think I could have been prouder of my son. I cried and his dad cried too.


Navigating school when you have Autism.


Most parents I speak to who have children with Autism tell me that the biggest issue they face is emotional regulation and that their child struggles with making and maintaining friendships. It’s heart breaking when your child comes home from school and once again you ask them what they have been doing today at school and who they played with, and they say “no-one “or I sat with my teacher.

When we make and keep friends easily its hard to imagine that something so simple can be so hard for some children and very difficult for parents to see happen to their kids. Fitting in as children and teenagers is incredibly important for, growth wellbeing and self- identity. It often comes in the context of bullying, isolation, and sensory build up in busy noisy stimulating school environments.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a wide range of symptoms and can manifest differently in each individual. It’s important to really get to know the person you are working with, with Autism as they have as many differences in the way they interact with their world as neurotypicals. Speaking to their friends and family is important as they can give you tips on the best ways to communicate with their loved one.

I work with children with Autism, and they tell me that having a consistent familiar face at school to share their time and having positive social interactions makes their daily school life so much better to navigate and handle. I’ve listed some tips for those looking for some guidance in how to help their child with Autism.


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Tips for helping children with Autism develop social networks 


  1. Avoid sensory overload: Many individuals with autism are sensitive to sensory stimuli like loud noises, bright lights, or strong smells. Try to create a calm and comfortable environment to prevent sensory overload.



  1. Don’t make assumptions: Autism is a spectrum disorder, and each individual is unique. Avoid assuming what someone with autism can or cannot do based on preconceived notions about the condition.



  1. Avoid using ambiguous language: Individuals with autism may have difficulty understanding sarcasm, irony, or figures of speech. Use clear and straightforward language when communicating.


  1. Don’t dismiss stimming: Stimming refers to self-stimulatory behaviours like hand-flapping or rocking. It helps individuals with autism regulate their sensory input and emotions. Avoid stopping stimming unless it poses a danger to the person or others.



  1. Avoid forced eye contact: Forcing eye contact can be uncomfortable for individuals with autism, as it may cause sensory discomfort. Respect their communication preferences and allow them to use alternative forms of communication if needed.


  1. Don’t disregard their interests: People with autism may have intense and focused interests. Instead of dismissing these interests, try to engage with them and use them as a way to build rapport and communication.



  1. Avoid sudden changes: Individuals with autism often thrive on routines and predictability. Try to provide advanced notice of any changes in plans or activities to help them prepare for transitions.


  1. Don’t ignore communication challenges: Many individuals with autism may have difficulties with verbal communication. Be patient and receptive to their preferred method of communication, which could include gestures, pictures, or assistive technology.



  1. Avoid assuming lack of empathy: People with autism may have challenges expressing empathy in conventional ways, but that doesn’t mean they lack feelings. Be mindful of their emotional experiences and validate their feelings.




  1. Don’t isolate or stigmatize: Treat individuals with autism with respect and inclusivity. Avoid stigmatizing language or behaviour and promote a supportive and accepting environment.



Remember that each person with autism is an individual with their strengths and challenges. Building positive relationships and understanding their needs can go a long way in creating a compassionate and inclusive community. Teaching our neurotypical children how to include and be accepting of children who are neurodiverse will go a long way to helping them feel loved and integrate into the school community . The problem and responsibility lies with us , not children who have differences .