music therapy for autism

Back to School Tips for Children Diagnosed with ASD

Whether your child has already started school or is still anticipating that first day of a new year, school can be a big source of stress. All children experience some anxiety when beginning a new year, but it can be particularly stressful for children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Below is a list of tips we believe could help reduce your child’s anxiety as your family transitions into a new year of school!

Create a Resume for Your Child: A great way to inform teachers and staff about your child is to create a one-page fact sheet or “resume.” This sheet allows your child to better communicate his or her needs, strengths, and any relevant information to adults they may work with during the year. This also assists the teachers in better understanding how they can best accommodate your child through the learning process. Even though you will probably meet your child’s teacher before school begins, there are many other people with whom your child will interact during their time at school that you will not meet. Having more information about your child on file than just grades, date of birth, height, and hair color, will help others who interact with your child to do so in a more positive way.

Set and Keep a FUN Routine: Routines are very important to those diagnosed with ASD, as they limit the amount of anxiety-producing surprises. FUN routines can be especially helpful! There are different ways to reduce anxiety related to school, and one is to ensure that your child has a very positive experience waking up and getting ready each day. A morning could include singing a favorite song, eating a good breakfast, or even playing a game before they leave. Reviewing a schedule can be very helpful as well, as it allows your child to understand what to expect while not with you. If your child has trouble getting supplies together in the morning, use a simple song to help them remember the list!

This is an example set to “London Bridges.” This song is also helpful in transitioning your child from home to school by reminding where he or she is going and that it is almost time for school to begin.

Let’s get ready to go to school,

go to school, go to school.

Let’s get ready to go to school,

Go to school.

Pencils, Erasers, Homework,

Notebook, Lunchbox.

Pencils, Erasers, Homework,

Notebook, Lunchbox.

Reinforce Learning with Music: Most parents of children diagnosed with ASD notice their child has a unique learning style that isn’t always met in a traditional classroom setting. Sometimes, this means that their child will have a harder time remembering material they have been taught. Fortunately music can make all the difference in the world! Using music can help a child perceive, understand, memorize, and retain information they learn in school. As a parent, using music to help with homework is very beneficial and not as hard as you may think. Simply singing homework questions can help a child better process the information. Every child wants to have fun when they are learning, but for children diagnosed with ASD, fun is required!

Relaxing: Sometimes we forget how important it is to have down time, but it is especially important for kids diagnosed with ASD. When in school, children are told all day what they must do, and sometimes coming home to more rules and requirements can be anxiety provoking. To help your child to relax, play some music that they like, encourage them to read, or let them have time to play a game of their choice. To use music that encourages relaxation, choose to play something very familiar to your child and strive for a tempo close to 60, which is usually an ideal heart rate.

I hope that these tips will help you and your child have a successful, anxiety free school year!


Kate Harris, MT-BC

Music Therapy Services of Portland

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