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School's Back! TK's Advice for Parents

30 January 2020

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Hello Parents, welcome to a new year, a new decade and a new world of possibilities for you and your lovely child on the autism spectrum.

For some children it means entering a new school, for others it’s just another school year, which in of itself brings positives and negatives. Chances are you are nervous about what comes next.

Almost a decade and a half ago, I was a high school student on the autism spectrum handling everything that school life threw at me. Now I mentor high school students on the autism spectrum, and talk them through their everyday ups and downs. Today I thought I would pass on what I have learned about helping your kid to process their new school year and start to relax into it.

When you’re living the life of a primary school kid, chances are you have enough energy to take on the day, come home, tell everyone about your wicked adventures, then bounce on the trampoline for half an hour. Back in those days if you wanted to get words out of a kid you’d just feed them some red cordial then wait for the sugar high storytelling to start (I do not suggest this, I may have had some injuries from my trips around the red cordial bush).

Sadly, however, when kids become teenagers they are less inclined to talk about their day at school. They just want to unwind and do nothing, recharge those batteries they drained with the amount of work that went on throughout the day.

Chances are however you still want to check in with your kids about their day at school, but they probably no longer yearn for a drop of red cordial.

Here are a few tips that might help in getting a couple of words out of your high school kid before they enter the realm of relaxation.

  1. Be clear and ask for a specific number of topics “What did you learn in Science?” “Tell me 3 fun things that happened today”
  2. If they are not up for conversation, then writing or drawing their feelings/day can help.
    An activity usually helps. Chances are you already know what stimming is. For those that don’t know stimming is a repetitive action people use to regulate themselves through the world’s messes. Stimming is a positive behaviour and should not be discouraged. Play a game of chess, or get them a box where they can tear stuff up

“But Thomas, I am already talking to them and they are not replying. What do I do?” I hear you ask!

To which I say you are asking on your terms, when you are feeling relaxed and they are not. My recommended way to get through to them is to find time on their terms. It’s okay if they stim, if they are playing games during it, this is the starting point for you to get through to them.

Here's a stim description for those not in touch with the lingo. Stimming is a repetitive behaviour used more prominently by neurodivergent people, to help them process the information that is going on around them. You can see stimming occur when someone is

  • Trying to process the world around them
  • During times of high sensory input
  • When stressed or anxious
  • When excited or happy

There are literally a wide variety of different times you can stim, and something tells me that you guys have started stimming too!

Recalling information can get annoying when you have just gone through everything and you have to recall every bit of it to a family member. We don’t want to spend energy reliving the mundane when we could be doing something that is important to us. This is why activities are important because they have a purpose. So what do you choose?

I can’t answer that question, but I want to go deeper into this topic, but that’s a story FOR ANOTHER TIME! (I always wanted to say that.)

Everyone has differing viewpoints on what the best moment of the day is. For some, it’s when you get up or go to sleep. I feel that the time spent right after getting home is crucial because that is the time where your bucket of a brain is filled with knowledge, one wrong move can cause disaster! Unless of course, you have the right people to handle it.

By incorporating the right activities after school, you will be able to help your kids process their day at school in a much better light.

Wrapping it all up for this month, I know many of you have your concerns this year but don’t fret. An autistic mind can be like a steel trap, they recall a wide variety of information, and when you take the time to talk to them and learn about what they have been up to, then they’ll love you forever.

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