Support for Schools

In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, it is important for schools to support their students with autism.

  • School administration may want to encourage parents to reach out to psychologists, counselors and teachers to share how their children are feeling, and inform them of strategies that may work specifically well for them.  
  • Designate a support person or formulate a plan to support each student based on feedback from parents and teachers. It is important to be cognizant of potential bullying and feelings of isolation. Remember to support not just students with autism, but also their siblings and friends, who may also be affected by the tragedy.
  • Be sure to continue to monitor the way each student responds to the supports you have put in place. 

This piece is from the National Association of School Psychologists may be used by other organizations without receiving specific permission as long as it is reprinted or posted to websites verbatim, credits NASP, and includes links to the www.nasponline.org. More in-depth information is available now and additional information on related topics will be posted over the next few days.

A National Tragedy: Helping Children Cope 
What Schools Can Do

  1. Assure children that they are safe and that schools are well prepared to take care of all children at all times.
     
  2. Maintain structure and stability within the schools. It would be best, however, not to have tests or major projects within the next few days.
     
  3. Have a plan for the first few days back at school. Include school psychologists, counselors, and crisis team members in planning the school’s response.
     
  4. Provide teachers and parents with information about what to say and do for children in school and at home.
     
  5. Have teachers provide information directly to their students, not during the public address announcements.
     
  6. Have school psychologists and counselors available to talk to students and staff who may need or want extra support.
     
  7. Be aware of students who may have recently experienced a personal tragedy or a have personal connection to victims or their families. Even a child who has merely visited the affected area or community may have a strong reaction. Provide these students extra support and leniency if necessary.
     
  8. Know what community resources are available for children who may need extra counseling. School psychologists can be very helpful in directing families to the right community resources.
     
  9. Allow time for age appropriate classroom discussion and activities. Do not expect teachers to provide all of the answers. They should ask questions and guide the discussion, but not dominate it. Other activities can include art and writing projects, play acting, and physical games.
     
  10. Be careful not to stereotype people or countries that might be associated with the tragedy. Children can easily generalize negative statements and develop prejudice. Talk about tolerance and justice versus vengeance. Stop any bullying or teasing of students immediately.
     
  11. Refer children who exhibit extreme anxiety, fear or anger to mental health counselors in the school. Inform their parents.
     
  12. Provide an outlet for students’ desire to help. Consider making get well cards or sending letters to the families and survivors of the tragedy, or writing thank you letters to doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals as well as emergency rescue workers, firefighters and police.
     
  13. Monitor or restrict viewing scenes of the event as well as the aftermath.

Additional Resources

National Association of School Psychologist

School Community Tool Kit

We would love to hear from you to find out what has been helpful for you and your family during this difficult time. Please email us at nora@autismspeaks.org