At this time of year I am so often approached by parents whose children are really struggling. They walk through the door from school and explode, or spend the evening buried under their duvet covers.
Yet in school they appear ‘fine’.
For a non Specialist teacher faced with a child who looks ‘fine’ it can be hard to imagine or envisage what they can do to help improve the situation. Even those who genuinely care can often feel overwhelmed about which supports they can put in place.
So what strategies can be put in place for those young people who ‘look fine’?
Quite simply, the best piece of advice I can give teachers is to put in place everything they would for a child or young person who displays their anxiety outwardly.
Tracking a student’s day and their reaction to what happens that day can provide valuable insights. Tracking should be done for at least two weeks and should record responses 24 hours a day. Those days where a child goes home and either has a meltdown or goes into withdrawal should be particularly carefully analysed. It’s likely that those are the days where most alterations are needed during the day itself.
Providing structure to a young person’s day so that they can predict what will happen will help to reassure them and prepare them for any changes to routine. For younger children visual symbols or photographs are a great way to achieve this, whereas for older children a written list can work equally well.
Provide Regular Sensory Breaks
Providing time away from their desks and the pressures of the classroom can make a big difference to some students. Whilst your eventual aim should be to enable students to ask for these breaks, initially it’s likely you will need to schedule them into their day so they can realise the difference they can make. Seeking the advice of an Occupational Therapist on the best ways to use this time is ideal, but if you don’t have access to one, things like wobble boards, a run around outside, access to a quiet area, dark den or sensory area can all prove useful for some young people.
Give Students Non-Verbal Ways To Ask For Help
Cards to hand over when they need a break, colours cards to place on their desk when they need help, 5 point scales and a notebook to write down their worries can all help students feel more in control during the day. An ability to express their feelings in a way that know is encouraged by their teachers will help them, over time, to show others how they are feeling.
Work With Parents
Most important of all if you have a student in your class that masks is to work with parents. They are your key to understanding their child, and their views should be taken into account at all times.
Remember always that they are their child’s voice, never more so than for a child that masks.
Why not join our lovely, friendly Facebook Group full of parents determined to make sure their children are #UNIQUEANDSUCCESSFUL.
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.