Coping with School


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When I went into school with Henry and sat outside his classroom for support I couldn’t believe how noisy and chaotic it felt – I could hear 2 teachers talking at the same time, doors constantly opening and shutting, chairs moving, children talking, toilets flushing, cups clinking, footsteps, echoes and the general hum was not at a low level but really loud. I realised at that moment how amazing any children do to concentrate in this environment let alone children with extra challenges. This post really explains how, although to us our children look like they are coping, just how much they are having to work to get through the day. Henry’s meltdowns, and all our childrens meltdowns, make perfect sense when it is explained like this and also reiterate how important the low distraction playroom is when we are reaching out to our kids and they are reaching out to us.

“Stop the world I WANT OFF!!”  (Taken from Facebook ‘Autism Discussion Page’)

From the viewpoint of the child! An afternoon at school for a child with processing difficulties.

“The world is spinning and bombarding too fast! I try, and try, until I cannot process any more. Help! My brain is drained, and my energy depleted. It is only noon and I have to somehow make it through the afternoon. Recess is chaotic; let me hide to the side. I have to somehow regroup and conserve, since I have little reserve . Like every afternoon I will have to ”shutdown” to “shut out” the world. As I overload, my senses become heightened, hyper-sensitive, and impossible to tolerate. The sounds, the smells, the chaotic activity around me meshes into confusion. I have to hold it together, and stay calm, as to explode would to bring disaster. I will sit quietly, but stare off. To be aware will overwhelm.

Like most every afternoons I will not remember what happened. It will be a blur. I will withdraw to survive, and gasp for air to not suffocate! I hurt all over, but cannot cry! I feel panic as the bright lights blind my eyes, the voices overwhelm me, and the smells make me nauseous. I can barely feel my arms and legs, let alone use them effectively. I am falling apart as I hold it in. As my coping skills collapse. I will withdraw and hide, sit quietly in my chair and hope that everyone forgets I am there. I want to hide in a corner, wrap up in a blanket, and withdraw to survive. I pray there will be no snags, or added demands, and hope that the teacher doesn’t call on me. .I cannot distinguish between what is said, what I did, or what is happening around me. Please somebody! Stop the world and let me get off!”

Please everyone, always be aware that a full day at school can be very draining and overwhelming. The sensory bombardment, social strain, and academic demands can tax an already vulnerable nervous system. Our world presents too much, too fast, and too intense, for many on the spectrum. Many have delayed processing issues that makes processing slow and taxing. They have to consciously “think through” much of what we process subconsciously and smoothly, with minimal energy. Slow it down, break it down, and give them a lot of breaks to rebound. Their energy supply drains fast, and they must have time to withdraw to regroup. Many have sleep disturbances, dietary concerns, and anxiety issues that leave them with a low reserve starting out the day. If they had a exhausting time the previous day, chances are they still have not replenished to full reserve. Do not pressure, do not demand, and let them pace themselves. Develop a sensory diet with plenty of breaks, and most importantly allow them to escape when needed. Give them a voice, and make sure they know how, and feel safe, to say “no” and “I need help.” As a teacher or aid, help them feel safe in your presence, and trust that you understand. As the day wears on, be aware that stress chemicals accumulate and the child will be drained. Do not pressure or ridicule, but support and reassure. In the mist of chaos, they need to feel “safe and accepted”, and know that they can count on you to support them.

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