Young people are expected to be attentive for at least five hours of every weekday in school. Not doing so would warrant punishment- either a gentle “shhhh” or a trip to the headteacher’s office. More importantly, not paying attention could lead students to missing important information in their lessons. Twenty five hours of listening to teachers, teaching assistants and classmates is a lot of work for any child, let alone those with Special Educational Needs, particularly those with Autism.
Most people with Autism are highly sensitive to external stimuli- whether it be visual, auditory, tactile or a combination of these. Most of them experience what is called ‘sensory overload’, just by sitting in their chairs listening to their teachers. Along with their teachers’ voice, they hear (amongst other things) pencils tapping, the wind blowing, the radiator’s vibrating noise, and even their seat-mate’s breathing all in the same amplified volume. In addition, they may be irritated by the smell of the carpets/ floor, the colourful displays in the classroom and possibly by the tags on their uniforms.
Now put yourself in their position. Will you be able to cope for 5 hours a day, 25 hours a week?
This is reason why pupils with Autism need to be given some (or a lot of) quiet time at school. After completing a demanding task, allow the students to de-stress, even for just 3 minutes. If your school does not have a quiet room, let your student(s) do something that they really enjoy. For instance, build lego, colour, complete jigsaw puzzles, or whatever activity that you think they can just ‘zone-out’.
Also, there may be some days where your students have had so much to deal with at home, that they refuse to do anything in school. Again, give them some space. Give them some quiet time. However, it is important to note that some children may associate grumpiness in the morning for happy quiet time. It goes without saying that quiet times should not be given willy-nilly. It is also important to communicate with the children’s parents so that you know what happened at home and whether they needed some quiet time or not.
When they get home, do not force them to do their homeworks straight away. Again, allow them some quiet time even for just a few minutes. They have been trying to tune out so much stimuli in school, and the last thing that most of them would want is to do their homework. I understand of course, that there are a lot of students who have gotten into the routine of doing homeworks straight after school- which is great. If your children enjoys doing their homework straight after school, do not change their routine. My advice only applies if your child exhibits problem behaviour when asked to do homeworks straight away.