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05 March 2021

Pastoral Blog: Advice for students with ASD ahead of their College Return

Pastoral Blog: Advice for students with ASD ahead of their College Return

As I write this blog post, many of our staff are involved in a big clean-up of our building and site to ensure a welcoming environment for our students to return on Monday. There is a real feeling of excitement among our staff at the prospect of seeing our amazing students again, and a desire to get back to the usual busy normality of life as a teacher.  As someone who has worked in college all throughout the lockdown period and who is not in a vulnerable group, I truly can’t wait for Monday morning so I can see the smiling faces of our students again and hear their chatter and laughter in the corridors and classrooms.

But what about the feelings of those who have nerves about returning? School leaders must bear in mind that many people will have mixed feelings about coming back, and that emotions a little more complex than pure excitement may be experienced by both students and staff.  Even though college will be a Covid-secure workplace, it is inevitable that some people, especially those with vulnerable relatives, may be worried about Covid itself.  Others may be worried that they will find it difficult to get back to their normal routine, and this can lead to anxieties about getting back to normal social interaction or teaching and learning in a face to face environment.  Staff may be worried about their own children returning to school, and students may be worried that they may have fallen behind if they have struggled to work as hard from home as they usually would under normal circumstances. And, of course, students with special needs such as ASD may struggle even more than most to cope with the change.

I would like to offer the following ASD-friendly tips to those students who may be feeling uncertain:

  • Have a pleasant and restful weekend. Make sure that you spend time doing something you enjoy, whether that is a socially distanced walk, a Zoom call with friends, lots of sleep, some time with a good book or eating your favourite foods.
  • To help with social nerves, perhaps you might like to contact a friend who is also returning to college on Sunday evening.  Agree a time when you will both arrive, and arrange to walk into college with them if this is possible
  • Try to remember that most people are feeling like you are.  I have been teaching for many years, but I still have some anxiety at the end of August where I worry that I have somehow “forgotten” how to teach.  Many people who have been off work for a long time, for example due to illness, also often worry that everything will have changed during their absence.  Students with ASD may suffer from these anxieties about change even more than most.  They can be assured that, although there are of course requirements about mask wearing and so on, nothing fundamental to the teaching or pastoral care has changed and the college has merely paused while you have been working from home.  Rules about masks are very clear and can be explained to you again, so there is no need to worry about getting things wrong
  • As always, do talk to someone if you are finding things to be difficult. EIC students can talk to me, their tutor or anyone they feel comfortable with. If you think that you might find your first day to be difficult, perhaps you could come in a little earlier for a chat while the college is still quiet. If you have a special need like ASD, come and see me before the rush if you would prefer to take your COVID test in a quiet room.  We will always try to accommodate any needs that you have
  • You may worry about sensory overload on your first day back, especially if you have a special need like ASD. Remember that you can use my room as a quiet space if you feel like this.  One of the great things about our college is that you can also leave the site during break and lunch, so you may also want to plan a walk in the fresh air for these times to break the day up
  • Get your belongings ready on Sunday evening so you have a stress-free morning on Monday.  Make sure your bag is packed and your clothes are laid out.  Have an early night on Sunday evening. Set your alarm early enough so you can have breakfast.
  • Plan an enjoyable activity for Monday evening.  This could be anything from a gaming session with friends to an hour alone with a good book. You are bound to feel tired after your first day back and you deserve a treat for your day of hard work!
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