Hi all, I have a question to any parents out there with a teenage autistic child. My 15 year old daughter is currently in the transition from mainstream to a specialise school due to her social emotional needs. She leaves next Friday but for the last few weeks every other day she will refuse to go into school for no apparent reason.
I understand she is anxious about leaving and starting a new school but I have to question is she being a typical teenager who doesn't want to go? I have taken away her phone and stopped her from going to after school club as a punishment for not going to school but does this make a difference? Should I even be punishing her or just accept that her refusal of school goes with the territory.
Would love to hear your opinions on this as the school aren't interested now because she is leaving shortly anyway
It's a big change and will be highly stressful for her.
My advice would be to say "go to school until this date, then we will let you have a week off" or something similar. This will give her an extra week to get her head sorted for the change to a new school, and give her something to look forward to.
As has been said - it is a big change and will be highly stressful. She most likely is finding such a change much harder to accept than a non-autistic child would.
I don't have autistic children, but have worked with them. Some - even the most highly-functioning ones - have found any kind of change very difficult to handle. One lad I worked with had meltdowns every day when his mother moved house with him. It took a few weeks to get him to accept the change.
If she is autistic, she is certainly not a 'typical teenager'. The punishments you have imposed could actually make things worse for her rather than better, because they are compounding things in a way that she may not be able to properly process and understand. I say 'could actually' because I don't know the full circumstances, and each autistic person will respond differently to things.
Does she have a SENco at the school that you could discuss this with? Have you spoken to any behaviour therapists who understand autistic behaviours?
There are reasons for her behaviour. They need to be properly understood.
You might find it useful to check out the information here:
I'm sorry if you don't like my reply, Loulabelle, but you did ask for opinions. I'm giving mine based on some good experience - both as an autistic person and as someone who has worked extensively with autistic adults and children. An aversive approach to behaviour, whilst it may work for many children, could well be more problematic for autistic children.
It is very difficult in situations like this. You know your daughter better than anyone. There obviously have to be boundaries for behaviour and there's no reason that just because someone is autistic, there can't be a sanction. But sanctions have to be carefully used. Does she fully understand her behaviour. Is the anxiety too much? I get very anxious and it is the most horrible feeling so to then get a punishment as well could be difficult. Without knowing her it's impossible to fully comment. My only suggestion is could it be turned round so there is a reward for going to school rather than a sanction for not? I would say the emphasis at the moment needs to be on a positive transition to her new school rather than on her current school. Good luck. I hope she finds things easier at her new school.
Thanks, Binary. That's the point I was trying to make, but it may not have been clear (my bad).
Yes, sanctions can be used, but carefully - as you say. You can't just, for instance, say 'You're grounded tonight' (depending again on the individual circumstance). There may need to be more forewarning of sanctions. And a reward-based system is good, as long as it isn't an obvious bribe.
It’s completely understandable that she doesn’t want to go in. But is it acceptable? No. Not in my opinion. School is mandatory up to age of 16 and so she should be attending. I keep enforcing this with my son he’s only 8 but has had days when he thought he could get away with not going in. I seriously think it’s very dangerous path when we start to make excuses for our children. She might like not being at school and then what you gonna do? No teenager likes school ones with additional difficulties probably even less so but personally I would am not excusing my child. We have a rule that if it’s something “minor” and possibly related to their disability we let it off but if it’s something against the law (or would be considered against the law as an adult) we come down on it hard. Old habits die hard and I don’t want my son to end up in trouble with the law because he was getting away with certain things as a kid (and why should he stop now?). I know the example is very OTT but one thing always leads to another... I think you are absolutely doing right thing. And it’s school who should be putting more support in!
Might this be an opportunity for your new school to come up with a plan to gradually introduce her to the new environment, perhaps a few more intro visits and a plan put in place of how they/you build up moving towards fulltime school with them. I do think it worth speaking to the new school to devise a transition plan as clearly she is very stressed as the existing school is not for her. County will support you if she needs to move schools earlier so worth speaking to the new school about that.
Maybe worth setting up a meeting with her new keyworker and passing on information of what she likes, triggers etc.
Hang on in there as I know how hard this is and how totally exhausting it can be (I have two children with Autism, one is a school avoider) but there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel. Use the expertise of the new school to guide and support you.
Keep strong and breathe xx
With respect... autistics have to put up with 'don't use your condition as an excuse' an awful lot. It's quite common, of course, precisely because autism is uncommon. Granted, children can certainly be manipulative. And there can be many reasons for this manipulation. With me as a child, it was to escape bullying. Actually, no... I wasn't manipulative. I simply bunked off until my headmaster was forced to deal with the situation properly. My parents had been to the school countless times about the bullying, but they just paid lip service to 'supporting' me. So... I took my own action and forced the situation. Call that manipulation if you like. I call it self-preservation.
You talk about your son as a law-breaker. Do you mean by not going to school? I would say that's quite different to deliberate law-breaking (such as stealing) - whether as a child or as an adult.
You are right. The school should be doing more. But you speak as someone who doesn't have a lot of patience for 'autism'. Most Aspies (I assume your son high-functioning) find NT behaviours such as manipulation, deceit and deliberate dishonesty to be rather alien concepts. Which isn't to say we're all wonderful people by any means.
Hi, Thank you for the reply, my daughter already does 2 vocational afternoons in the new school that she will be attending after the half term do she is familiar with the school.
My biggest fear is we have fought so hard to be heard from paediatrics/ senco and local authorities that mainstream weren't meeting my daughter's needs because she only has a meltdown at home ( either before or after school) what if the school don't see what we see? What if she doesn't want to go full stop?
Hi, Thank you for your advice. It's very much appreciated. I get everything you have all said. Although we have had a verbal diagnosis we are still on the waiting list for the autism assessment.
That being said I've tried ( omg I've tried) to understand why she doesn't want to go to school and she can't seem to tell me . It's also soul destroying when you see your 15year old daughter sat on her bedroom floor with no emotion on her face playing with a fidget spinner saying I'm not going.
So I guess until she as a proper diagnosis and she is settled in her new school I will need to ride it out and hope the school refusals will be few and far between