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Aspergers Students: Causes of School-Related Anxiety

It's common for Aspergers (high functioning autistic) children of all ages to experience school anxiety and school-related stress.

This is often most apparent at the end of summer when school is about to start again, but it can occur year-round. Social, academic and scheduling factors play a major role, as do hidden environmental stressors.

Below are some of the anxiety-related factors that both moms and dads and teachers should consider when dealing with Aspergers children:

1. Many schools now have anti-bullying programs and policies. Though bullying does still happen at many schools, even those with these policies, help is generally more easily accessible than it was years ago. The bad news is that bullying has gone high-tech. Many children use the Internet, cell phones and other media devices to bully other children, and this type of bullying often gets very aggressive. One reason is that bullies can be anonymous and enlist other bullies to make their target miserable. Another reason is that they don't have to face their targets, so it's easier to shed any empathy that they may otherwise feel. There are ways to combat cyber-bullying, but many moms and dads aren't aware of them – and many bullied Aspies feel too overwhelmed to deal with the situation.

2. Most Aspergers children want to have friends but may not have the social skills to acquire them. Concerns about not having enough friends, not being in the same class as friends, not being able to keep up with friends in one particular area or another, interpersonal conflicts, and peer pressure are a few of the very common ways Aspergers children can be stressed by their social lives (or lack of a social life) at school.

3. Children are being assigned a heavier homework load than in past years – and that extra work can add to a busy schedule and take a toll.

4. Due in part to the busyness of kids’ lives and the hectic schedules of most moms and dads, the sit-down family dinner has become the exception rather than the rule in many households. While there are other ways to connect as a family, many families find that they’re too busy to spend time together and have both the important discussions and the casual day recaps that can be so helpful for Aspies in dealing with the issues they face. Due to a lack of available family time, many moms and dads aren't as connected to their children, or knowledgeable about the issues they face.

5. Not having necessary supplies can be a very stressful experience for an Aspergers youngster. If the youngster doesn't have an adequate lunch, didn't bring his signed permission slip, or doesn't have a red shirt to wear on "Red Shirt Day," for example, he may experience significant stress.

6. You may already know that there are different styles of learning -- some learn better by listening, others retain information more efficiently if they see the information written out, and still others prefer learning by doing. If there's a mismatch in learning style and classroom, or if your Aspergers youngster has a learning disability (especially an undiscovered one), this can obviously lead to a stressful academic experience.

7. Noisy classrooms and hallways, noise pollution from nearby airports, heavy traffic, and other sources have been shown to cause stress that impacts Aspergers kids’ performance in school.

8. Many Aspies aren't getting enough sleep to function well each day. As schedules get busier, even young children are finding themselves habitually sleep-deprived. This can affect health and cognitive functioning, both of which impact school performance. Operating under a sleep deficit doesn’t just mean sleepiness, it can also lead to poor cognitive functioning, lack of coordination, moodiness, and other negative effects.

9. In an effort to give their Aspergers children an edge, or to provide the best possible developmental experiences, some moms and dads are enrolling their children in too many extra-curricular activities. As these children become teens, school extracurricular activities become much more demanding.

10. With the overabundance of convenience food available these days and the time constraints many experience, the average Aspie's diet has more sugar and less nutritious content than is recommended. This can lead to mood swings, lack of energy, and other negative effects that impact stress levels.

11. Most Aspies experience some level of stress or anxiety in social situations they encounter in school. While some of these issues provide important opportunities for growth, they must be handled with care and can cause anxiety that must be dealt with.

12. A good experience with a caring teacher can cause a lasting impression on an Aspergers youngster's life – but so can a bad experience! While most teachers do their best to provide “special needs kids” with a positive educational experience, some Aspies are better suited for certain teaching styles and classroom types than others. If there's a mismatch between student and teacher, the youngster can form lasting negative feelings about school or his own abilities.

13. Many of us experience test anxiety, regardless of whether or not we're prepared for exams. Unfortunately, some studies show that greater levels of test anxiety can actually hinder performance on exams. Reducing test anxiety can actually improve scores. Certain aspects of an Aspergers youngster's environment can also cause stress that can spill over and affect school performance.

14. There's a lot of pressure for children to learn more and more and at younger ages than in past generations. For example, while a few decades ago kindergarten was a time for learning letters, numbers, and basics, most kindergarteners today are expected to read. With test scores being heavily weighted and publicly known, schools and teachers are under great pressure to produce high test scores; that pressure can be passed on to children.

15. Just as it can be stressful to handle a heavy and challenging workload, some Aspergers kids can experience stress from work that isn't difficult enough. They can respond by acting-out or tuning-out in class, which leads to poor performance, masks the root of the problem, and perpetuates the difficulties.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns at Home and School


Joy said...

The part of the day that is most stressful for my 2nd grade son is the lunch/recess hour. All the sensory issues associated with getting from the classroom, into the hallways, then having only 20 minutes to finish lunch, out to recess and back to the classroom... it's enough to shut him down for the rest of the day.

Anonymous said...

Katie Osborn My son is swearing and just being demanding and hurtful. Ah the joy. Parents need patience and my boy needs a bar of soap in his mouth.
about an hour ago · Like · 1 person
Wendy Layne Windrich We had the WORST school anxiety the entire last month of summer vacation every year.. major stomachaches, headaches, unable to sleep, mood swings... we've switched to online public school and it's amazing how much the anxiety has reduced. We are doing social skills classes as well and hopefully it helps to relieve the anxiety.

Anonymous said...

Yara Victória Pereira mine got a fever on the first day...
16 hours ago · Like
Jessica Furches The night before the first day of school, i was up all night with a migraine sick to my stomach. Fought if of til morning and as soon as my feet hit the ground i was hugging the toilet. Horrible. Its been three weeks since school has started and he is doing really well. He has told me not to worry that he will be ok. I love him and thank God for him daily:)

Anonymous said...

Debbie Roenneburg
Anticipatory anxiety about school is horrid around our house too. The moment school supplies are mentioned she started to panic and it hasn't stopped. She has put off putting together her backpack for 5 days now. Unfortunately now that she is in middle school there are some things I just cant do for her, they need to be "her way". But I agree with Katy, the swareing and moodswings and demands have been horrid (add girl hormones!!) . Just a few more days till school starts.

Anonymous said...

What would be the most important things to tell my son's teacher about his special needs? I'd like to give her some kind of 'heads-up'.

Anonymous said...

Re: What would be the most important things to tell my son's teacher about his special needs?

Parenting Aspergers Children - Support Group
Five Things Teachers Need to Know—

1. If there will be any sort of change in my youngster's classroom or routine, please notify me as far in advance as possible so that we can all work together in preparing her for it.
2. My youngster is an individual, not a diagnosis; please be alert and receptive to the things that make her unique and special.
3. My youngster needs structure and routine in order to function. Please try to keep his world as predictable as possible.
4. My youngster's difficulty with social cues, nonverbal communication, figurative language and eye contact are part of his neurological makeup -- he is not being deliberately rude or disrespectful.
5. Please keep the lines of communication open between our home and the school. My youngster needs all the adults in his life working together.
2 hours ago · Like · 10 people

Anonymous said...

MaryBeth Ajack Matzek thanks for posting this. I am meeting with my son's teacher today...
2 hours ago · Like · 1 person
Joy-Marie Shores Anybody who would like to see an example of the "heads-up" note that I sent to my son's 2nd grade teacher this year... send me your email address and send it to you! : )))
about an hour ago · Like · 1 person
Joy-Marie Shores Send me a message, don't post to this string.
about an hour ago · Like
Michelle Waters-Sweet Those where pretty much all of the things that I said to my son's New teacher,swim coach and speech therapist. I also explained to them not to focus on his diagnosis but focus on what areas he needs help in.
about an hour ago · Like · 1 person
Babette Lane Jinkins I wrote a letter to all the teachers my son would interact with this year. It has helped tremendously!
about an hour ago · Like
Suzanne Bickford Joy-Marie, would love to see your heads up letter - tried to send you message on FB, but it only let me send you a friend request.
about an hour ago · Like
Karen Williams My son is going into 7th grade this year, and I wrote an intro letter to all of his teachers explaining his strengths and difficulties. Willing to share also, I can email anyone who is interested.
56 minutes ago · Like
Diamond Language
Provide verbal and visual information and notes. Do not assume that there is understanding of the rules and organization. Check their planner to make sure they have written all assignments and when due. If homework is not turned in, figure out why. Was it in the backpack? Did the directions change for the turn in? If a change, allow for late turn in. Make modifications when needed with agreement from the parent and student. Keep communication open and frequent.
43 minutes ago · Like
Michael Tingle Great Group. Could all of you send me the letters to, I hate when the teachers, in May, go, I should have listened to you in September.
39 minutes ago · Like

Anonymous said...

How can I help my Aspie son get warmed-up to school? He starts next Monday and is V E R Y anxious about it.

Anonymous said...

Re: How can I help my Aspie son get warmed-up to school?

Parenting Aspergers Children - Support Group
Student Orientation—

o Meet all educators and relevant school personnel.

o Obtain information about school routines and rules (i.e., lunch, going to the bathroom, before/after school, transportation).

o Practice route(s) from various classes to the bathroom, counselor's office, home base, etc.

o Practice routines such as finding homeroom from the bus stop, opening locker, going through the cafeteria line, etc.

o Practice use of transition to home base through role-play.

o Provide a "walk-through" of the Aspergers student's daily schedule. In schools where the schedule changes from day to day, the Aspergers student should have the opportunity to practice all possible schedules. If applicable, student "buddies" should be available to walk through the schedule with the student with ASPERGERS. The following are suggestions for the walk-through:

1. Provide instruction on the procedure for seeking out the safe person and home base.
2. Provide the Aspergers student the pictures and names of all additional personnel, such as cafeteria workers, school nurse, etc.
3. Provide the Aspergers student with pictures and names of all educators in advance of orientation.
4. Provide the Aspergers student with pictures and names of student "buddies."
5. Provide visual/written class schedule(s) for the Aspergers student.
6. Show the Aspergers student where his/her assigned seat in each classroom will be.
7. Videotape a walk-through school schedule for the Aspergers student to review at home.
2 hours ago · Like · 2 people

Anonymous said...

Karen Orechowski
talking to him about what he can expect to happen in a classroom is important. Let him know that it could get loud at times. Let him know how he'll be expected to behave. And check with the teacher/s to be sure they know what to expect from your son and how to react to any possible meltdowns. Having a teacher who is not familiar with asperger's can add stress that could be avoided with a little education and preparation. Let him know school can be fun if he's able to just relax.
2 hours ago · Like
Erica Jean Rutherford I started taking my son to school wvery morning starting 2 weeks before his first day to establish the new routine, scope out the building and meet the teachers and administrators. It helped him a lot because it was no longer the unknown. If you give the school a call and explain the situation they'll probably be willing to let you do the same.
about an hour ago · Like
Vanessa Willis Request a time for him to go meet his new teacher and see the classroom. Let him/her go over the class rules and schedule. That does the trick for us every year.
about an hour ago · Like

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Click here to read the full article…

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Click here for the full article...

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Click here to read the full article…

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My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content