Starting or returning to Secondary School can be a big change and a challenge for all students, however if you (or a family member) have a condition on the Autism Spectrum it can be a little bit harder.
Michael Ryan is a Psychotherapist, running Peace of Mind Counselling Services, who works with many students and young people with Aspergers Syndrome and Autism. Here, Michael shares 10 tips for getting off to the right start to Secondary School …
1. Introduce yourself to your Class Tutor (The teacher responsible for your class group) so that they can get to know you and understand you. They may not know your particular traits and they may need you to explain some of your challenges to them so that they understand you and can help you out.
2. Find an activity to take part in apart from class. It is a good way to make friends and it improves your image within the school community. This could be in something like drama, sport, science, environment, art, academics, debating or music – or if nothing grabs your attention from the current list of activities within the school – perhaps you could start a new activity within the school around your area of special interest.
3. In week one – Really examine your timetable and do out a study plan for the week so that you will have a structure to your evening to include rest, study, screen-time and exercise.
4. If you experience melt-downs, it is important that you have a space within the school to go to when you are highly stressed. Your class tutor or year head should be able to identify this space. Maybe the library, outside the principal’s office, the SNA room or the oratory. You might need to get a note in your journal to excuse you from class.
5. If you have an SNA – treat them with respect and they will do the same. SNA’s can be a great support when times get tough. They really are there to try and make the year as safe, productive and supportive as possible for you. You are together for the year so you might as well try and get along as it’s easier that way.
6. If you have assistive technology like a laptop – use it. You have to get used to it so that you can use it in exams. Most people love getting the piece of assistive technology, while others feel that it makes them look different. Don’t fight the things that will help you.
7. If anyone bullies you or calls you names, tell them to stop. If they persist, make sure to report this to your class tutor. Bullies need to know from the start that you will not just accept their negative behaviour towards you.
8. If there is a counsellor at the school it might be helpful to connect in with them so that you can turn to them if a crisis arises. They can help you to deal with anxiety and stress and you can talk through your worries, problems and concerns with them.
9. “Compare and Despair”. Don’t compare yourself to others as there will always be someone smarter, faster, better looking, funnier, more popular, taller, fitter etc than you. Only know that you are doing your best and be proud of what you can achieve with your personal set of skills.
10. Become a champion of your identity. We are all different. What makes us successful is our ability to accept our differences and to respect and love ourselves, just as we are. Become a champion of your life (and your labels) and do not try and hide your identity – become an ambassador for others like you.
By Michael Ryan.
For more from Michael or to find out about his services please see peaceofmind.ie
Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net / hin255