Year eleven is a hard year for many young people, but the combination of the stress of GCSE exams looming and impending change heading their way makes it especially challenging for those young people with Autism.
So what can you as parents and teachers do to help them:
Work as a team
I know this is something I often talk about, but working as a team really does make a difference. When parents, teachers and young people talk Bout things and develop plans together, each taking into account the needs of the other magic really can happen.
Break Revision Down
Revision seems like a monumental task to many young people, especially those who find bringing homework out of school challenging. If parents and teachers sit down together to create an overall plan of the revision which needs to be done over the course of the year, this can then be broken down over the course of the year. Focusing on one or two areas per week feels much more manageable and achievable that ‘revise’. It is crucial that whatever plans are made feel manageable and contain space to catch up if something is missed, in order to avoid overwhelm and refusal to participate.
Remember Revision Can Take Many Forms
Whether it’s sending your child a text message asking them the answer to a question, or getting them to test you on the knowledge retained to your secondary school days be prepared to think outside the box. If your child has a girlfriend or boyfriend why not get them to help each other, oral revision notes recorded for each other are likely to have extra appeal. Post it notes placed in strategic places around the house, containing facts or quotes can also help retention as the young person will be able to visualise them in the place they were.
Think Carefully About Language Usage
Think carefully when talking in class or home about the importance of exams. It’s a particularly careful balance for children on the Spectrum, and if this is over emphasised it can cause anxiety levels to rise to a point where it is hard for them to cope. Sending young people to do a job, or allowing them to work in the library during these conversations can be particularly helpful.
Consider Mock Preparation Carefully
Often students report that their mock exams are even more stressful than their actual exams. When it comes round to final exam time young people are no longer focusing on lessons and homework, instead they are going into school just for their exams often with breaks in the middle to allow them to transition from one to the other. In contrast mock time is frenetic as schools often try to cram all exams into one single week, often with additional lessons in the middle. In order to enable young people to cope better, allowing young people to sit just one exam per day and ensuring they have downtime before transitioning to ‘normal’ lessons can both be strategies that help.
Emphasise That Life Is About More Than Exams
Remember that in amongst the frenetic preparation for exams, it’s also important to remember that other things are important – and that who we are can never really be summed up by a set of numbers on paper. Give students t8 e to excel at the things they are good at, praise them for their kindness, for their effort and for their success in extra curricular activities. For those who find just walking through the door hard, praise them for doing exactly that. Self esteem is a fragile beast and preserving that should be at the top of everyone’s agenda.
Don’t Forget That Change Is Scary
Whilst the rest of year eleven may well be chomping at the bit with excitement to move on to college, sixth form or apprentiships, for many young people with Autism the excitement about those changes is likely to be tempered. Whilst they may be keen to leave school for young people who often find both choices and change difficult anxiety is likely to rear its head frequently leaving young people with emotions they aren’t quite sure how to deal with. Making sure there is someone both in school and at home they can talk to if they start to feel overwhelmed is critical, as is keeping these things in mind during things like tutor time and PSHE lessons when the future is being discussed.
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If you do want to learn more you might find our autism section a useful place to start. It’s full of different strategies to try out.
Or if you’re looking for more personal support to help you take that action, why not check out our Consultancy Services.